Albert Roca said his side’s quest for consistency would be put to test when Bengaluru FC take on ATK at the Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata, on Saturday. The Blues are yet to win three games on the spin this season and the Spaniard believes that three points against Ashley Westwood’s side would do more than just keep his side on top of the table.
“We haven’t been able to win three games in a row this season which means we have so many aspects to improve upon. The game against ATK gives us the chance to change a pattern that we are not particularly proud of. Also, a defeat would have our rivals jumping at the chance to go ahead of us,” said Roca.
A long list of injuries has seen the Kolkata side struggle and ATK too have a pattern they would like to get rid of – that of three straight defeats that has left them on 8th position on the table. However, Roca refused to make much of the hosts’ form, saying his team had learnt lessons from Delhi. “Form and the table said we would beat Delhi Dynamos, but we came away with a 0-2 defeat. The team has done well to use that as a lesson. ATK have a mathematical chance of making it to the play-off stages and that will be all the motivation they need to come out hard against us.”
The Kolkata side have been without striker Robbie Keane, Tom Thorpe and Zequinha while defender Ryan Taylor missed the defeat against Jamshedpur with a suspension. While Keane and Taylor could make a return for this game, Thorpe remains a doubt.
Bengaluru’s list of injuries include striker Braulio Nobrega (knee) who is likely to be out for a few weeks. Midfielder Dimas Delgado who sat out in the win against NorthEast with an injured calf continues to remain a doubt. “Braulio could end up missing the rest of the season. As for Dimas, we will take a call in the morning,” informed Roca. In a forced change, right-back Harmanjot Khabra hasn’t traveled owing to a suspension for accumulating four bookings.
Back in the first week of January, a Sunil Chhetri stunner had given Bengaluru all points when ATK came calling at the Kanteerava. The captain, who has added to his tally since, is now the highest Indian scorer in the league with 8 goals, and along with in-form strike partner Miku, combined for a total of 17 of the Blues’ 23 goals. “If I had my way I would like even Gurpreet to be among the goal scorers, but I’m happy for the boys who are regularly getting the goals for us,” said Roca.
Interestingly, the trip will be Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s first to Kolkata, since leaving East Bengal for his foreign sojourn in 2014, while former coach Ashley Westwood faces the Blues for the first time as a rival.
The game kicks off at 8 pm IST and will be telecast across the Star Sports network, HotStar and Jio TV.