Indian Super League giants ATK Mohun Bagan and Chennaiyin FC will get their 2022-23 campaigns underway against each other with a match at the iconic Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Monday, 10th October. The return of the Indian Super League to the prestigious and iconic city of Kolkata, which always holds a special place in Indian football, is expected to be a much-coveted affair.
ATK Mohun Bagan will be under plenty of pressure to deliver in front of their fans as Juan Ferrando and his men begin yet another domestic campaign. The Mariners had finished third in the Indian Super League last season with 37 points, six behind shield winners Jamshedpur FC.
ATKMB had won 10 of their 20 matches while drawing seven and losing only on three occasions. Only Jamshedpur FC had lost as few matches as the Mariners last season. They also scored 37 goals in the league, only behind Hyderabad’s 43 and Jamshedpur’s 42. 30 of those goals came from open play last season for Ferrando’s side and it was the highest tally of any side in the league last season.
ATK Mohun Bagan have been quite active in the transfer market and reinforcements have been brought in to strengthen their defence. Asish Rai, Florentin Pogba and Brendan Hamill are expected to bolster the defence of the Green and Maroon Brigade. Former Chennaiyin FC goalkeeper Vishal Kaith, who has kept 12 clean sheets in ISL, has also been brought to the club.
“All matches will be difficult. Our mentality is to improve day by day, to try and find solutions when we find problems and to play football”, said coach Juan Ferrando. “Solutions in this game are easy – try to play football, try to find space and be more effective in front of the goal”, the Spaniard added.
However, ATKMB also parted ways with their long-term strike-force leaders Roy Krishna and David Williams. The departures of two hugely experienced players that have seen it and done it all is expected to affect their attacking prowess and the lack of chemistry upfront was visible during the Mariners’ Durand Cup campaign.
However, Liston Colaco and Manvir Singh scored 14 goals between them last season and seem capable of taking the attacking onus on their shoulders. In addition to that, ATK Mohun Bagan have also signed attackers Ashique Kuruniyan and Dimitri Petratos.
The Mariners have continued to invest heavily in their squads and there’s no doubt that they will be gunning for the top position in the league as well as the ISL title. Anything less than that will be considered to be disappointing for the Green and Maroon faithful.
It will also be important for the club to learn from the recent setback of losing in the AFC Cup to Kuala Lumpur City FC. The Durand Cup, too, was a forgettable experience for the Kolkata club and they must learn from their mistakes going forward.
Chennaiyin FC meanwhile, have fallen a victim to their illustrious past in the recent years. One of the brightest sides in the ISL over its first few seasons, Chennaiyin’s performances have fallen off a cliff since then and they have become a shadow of the club that they once were.
They had finished at the bottom of the table in ISL 2018/19 and despite regaining form the next season and qualifying for the knockouts with a fourth-placed finish, the last couple of seasons have been disappointing as well with the Marina Machans managing a lowly eighth on both occasions in 2020/21 and 2021/22.
Last season, Chennaiyin collected 20 points from their 20 matches – same as their tally from the previous season. They won five, drew five, but went on to lose 10 games. They have been hamstrung in attack and lack of creativity combined with suppressed firepower up top have resulted in them scoring fewer and fewer goals. Last season, they had managed only 17 goals throughout the entire competition – the lowest in the Indian Super League. Even bottom-placed East Bengal had scored more goals than them.
With that being said, Chennaiyin have also been busy in the transfer market and are trying to correct several of their wrongs in recent years. The two-time ISL champions have appointed a new manager in Thomas Brdaric and they have also signed six new foreign players to their roster.
A plethora of Indian players, including defensive midfielder Jitheshwor Singh, who won the I-League Emerging Player of the Year last season, have also been brought into the squad.
“I like offensive football. I like to score. This is what we want to implement in the game. Also, of course, I understand how we have to defend and both these topics are very important in professional football”, said coach Thomas Brdaric. “In modern football, you have to run on both sides”, added the 47-year-old.
Fallou Diagne and Vafa Hakamaneshi will occupy the heart of the defence for Chennaiyin this season. Meanwhile, Julius Daker is the high-profile foreign player acquisition in central midfield for the Marina Machans and Kwame Karikari and Petar Sliskovic are the two foreign strikers that have been roped in by Chennaiyin. Duker, Karikari and Sliskovic have already gotten off to a strong note and made a great impact during Chennaiyin’s Durand Cup 2022 run.
Besides North East United, Chennaiyin FC are the only team whose entire set of foreign players will be experiencing the Indian Super League for the first time ever. Chennaiyin have never beaten ATK Mohun Bagan before and have slumped to two defeats and two draws in the four encounters between them.
There’s no doubt that Brdaric’s priority will be taking the club back to the playoffs during the 2022-23 campaign. Recording a wonderful start by upsetting one of the most dominant forces in the league will allow them to build momentum very early on.
ATKMB vs CHE, Indian Super League 2022/23
Date: 10th October, 2022
Time: 7:30 PM IST
Venue: Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata
ATK Mohun Bagan Indian Super League form:
Chennaiyin FC Indian Super League form:
ATK Mohun Bagan wins: 2
Chennaiyin FC wins: 0
ATK Mohun Bagan Team News:
ATK Mohun Bagan have a couple of doubts ahead of Chennaiyin’s visit to Kolkata. Both Ashish Rai and Kiyan Nassiri are doubtful and it remains to be seen whether Ferrando takes the risk of including them during the match at some point.
In the press conference ahead of the game, Ferrando had mentioned that he will decide the starting XI based on the final practice session.
Chennaiyin FC Team News:
Chennaiyin FC, meanwhile, have already travelled to Kolkata with a squad of 22 players. Alexander Romario Jesuraj, Vincy Barretto and Mohammed Rafique are not in the squad. Besides them, there are a few more injury concerns but most of the expected regulars are available to start for the Marina Machans.
ATK Mohun Bagan possible starting lineup:
Vishal Kaith (GK), Pritam Kotal, Florentin Pogba, Brendan Hamill, Subhasish Bose, Carl McHugh, Joni Kauko, Deepak Tangri, Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan.
Chennaiyin FC possible starting lineup:
Debjit Majumder (GK), Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, Fallou Diagne, Sajid Dhot, Narayan Das, Anirudh Thapa, Julius Duker, Sajal Bag, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Petar Sliskovic, Kwame Karikari.
Both the teams had polar opposite ISL seasons last time around. ATK Mohun Bagan had been one of the most freely scoring sides in the league while Chennaiyin recorded the worst goal tally in the entire division. The Mariners have also been an automatic choice for progression to the playoff rounds and even contending for the title. On the other hand, Marina Machans have finished eighth in both their last two seasons.
With that being said, the departures of Roy Krishna and David Williams are expected to leave a hole in the ATK Mohun Bagan firing line which, although still occupied by massive talents, may take some time to gel together. Meanwhile, Chennaiyin have also almost revolutionised their entire squad with astute signings and their past projections cannot be taken as an accurate measure of reality.
However, hosts ATK Mohun Bagan should have enough in them to hold off any challenge for Chennaiyin.