ISL Season 5: Big-spending ATK eye third title

ISL Season 5: Big-spending ATK eye third title

Kochi: Two-time champions ATK are all set for their fifth campaign in the Indian Super League (ISL) with a revamped squad and a new coach at the helm.

ATK come into the new season on the back of their worst ever campaign in the glitzy league which saw them end up ninth in the 10-team competition with just four wins and four draws from 18 matches in the league stage.

Former Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC coach Steve Coppell, who has a decent track record in the ISL, is their new gaffer.

The Kolkata-based club co-owned by former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly are high on confidence after a successful pre-season European tour during which they put up impressive shows against some top sides including Premier League outfit Fulham FC.

Psychological advantage

Despite changing their core team of players and the coach, ATK appear to be well equipped to clinch their third ISL title.

They have spent big and brought in several top stars, both Indian and overseas, who have prior experience of playing in the ISL. Since six out of their seven foreign recruits were key members of different ISL sides over the past few seasons, ATK hold a psychological advantage over their rivals in the 10-team league even before the kick-off.

Among their foreign recruits are former FC Goa playmaker Manuel Lanzarote, former Delhi Dynamos striker Kalu Uche, who was the third highest goal scorer last season, defender John Johnson, who remained the pillar of strength in Bengaluru FC’s defence for five years, ex-Jamshedpur FC central defender Andre Bikey, and Brazilians Everton Santos and Gerson Vieira, who proved their credentials as utility players for Mumbai FC last year.

Moroccan defensive midfielder Noussair El Maimouni is the only foreign player signed by ATK who will be making his ISL debut this season. The 27-year-old, who started his professional career with Moghreb de Tetouan in his home country, was on Atletico Madrid’s radar two years ago.

Indian battalion

Though ATK decided against retaining the services of majority of foreigners from the last season, some of the Indian players from the previous edition were offered a new contract to ensue some sense of continuity in the squad.

Their midfield comprising Indian internationals Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Pronay Halder, and Cavin Lobo also features young prospects Komal Thatal, Hitesh Sharma, Malsawmzuala, Yumnam Singh, and Sheikh Faiaz.

The Indians in the ATK forward line-up are Balwant Singh and Jayesh Rane, while experienced Aiborlang Khongjee and Sena Ralte will add local flavor to their backline.

Debjit Majumder will once again guard the goal for ATK. Arindam Bhattacharya and Avilash Paul are his deputies.

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