Bengaluru FC will host ATK in both teams’ last ISL league stage engagements for the season, at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday.
Defending champions Bengaluru FC welcome ATK FC to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday for what will be both teams’ final match of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 league phase. While ATK FC is guaranteed to finish on the second spot irrespective of other results, Bengaluru needs a win to ensure they finish third.
Bengaluru has an AFC Cup second leg playoff to play on Wednesday, so it will be no surprise if Carles Cuadrat decides to rest some of his regular starters in order to ensure that some of his youngsters get more game-time with the first team.
It is also an opportunity for both coaches to rest players on three yellow cards, or risk them being suspended for the first leg of the semifinal. ISL regulations state that all yellow cards are wiped out at the end of the league stage, and players can begin the playoffs with a clean slate.
After finishing at the top of the table in their last two campaigns, the Blues failed to secure the summit this time around but nevertheless have already qualified for the semi-finals. Their defense has had a big part to play this season, with the team boasting the best defensive record in the league so far, letting in just 11 goals in their 17 matches so far.
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Bengaluru hasn’t been quite as clinical, having managed only 20 goals so far this season. In fact, their tally so far is the second-worst in the league so far, with only NorthEast United FC having scored lesser than them. The team has heavily depended on captain Sunil Chhetri for their goals with the ace striker accounting for nine goals in 15 games, roughly 45% of the team’s entire goals tally.
The 35-year-old had been nursing a niggle and it remains to be seen whether Cuadrat decides to risk his star man on Saturday, especially with the team already having qualified for the knock out phases. Additionally, with Albert Serran, Dimas Delgado, Erik Paartalu and Ashique Kuruniyan one yellow card away from a suspension, Cuadrat may opt not to field the quartet with the semis in mind.
Interestingly, if Bengaluru manages to finish third, they will face ATK in the semis and Saturday’s match can be viewed as a dress rehearsal of sorts for both sides involved.
Having lost out on the top spot to FC Goa, ATK is all set to finish second and have nothing substantial riding on the Bengaluru match other than possibly getting a psychological leg up over a potential semi-final opponent. Given the scenario, it won’t be surprising to see Antonio Lopez Habas rest a few of his key players in order to safeguard them for the knockout phases.
On the other hand, however, the two-time champions will be eager to put their loss to Chennaiyin FC in their last match behind them with a positive result to ensure they don’t head into the semis on the back of consecutive losses.
Overall, ATK has had a solid season on both ends of the pitch. They possess the second-best defensive record in the division, only behind Bengaluru. On the offensive front, only table-toppers FC Goa have scored more than their tally of 31 goals so far.
Bengaluru FC: Prabhsukhan Singh Gill (GK), Gursimrat Singh Gill, Juanan, Rahul Bheke, Parag Srivas, Harmanjot Khabra, Francisco Borges, Suresh Wangjam, Udanta Singh, Deshorn Brown, Kevaughn Frater
ATK FC: Arindam Bhattacharja (GK), Pritam Kotal, Victor Mongil, Sumit Rathi, Prabir Das, Michael Soosairaj, Edu Garcia, Armando Sosa Pena, David Williams, Jayesh Rane, Roy Krishna
Bengaluru FC v ATK Head-to-Head:
The Blues have played ATK five times before, and have lost only once when Williams scored the winner at the Salt lake Stadium earlier this season.
Both previous meetings between these two sides at the Kanteerava have ended 1-0 to Bengaluru, with Sunil Chhetri scoring the winner in the 2017-18 season, while Erik Paartalu rose to head Bengaluru to victory last season.
Bengaluru FC wins: 4
ATK wins: 1