Atletico de Kolkata doesn’t have much to play for going into their final game. Jose Molina’s men ensured that they become the first team to qualify for the playoffs for a record third time running in the ISL with their one point from their penultimate league game against the Kerala Blasters.
However, all great managers find a way to motivate their team and Molina suddenly has found one, albeit with some help from the media. Molina announced that Atletico de Kolkata would like to win and win it for the players of Chapecoense, who lost their lives in a tragic plane crash in Colombia whilst they were on their way to take part in the final of the Copa Sudamerica.
“It’s a tragedy. The whole football family sympathises with their situation. We would like to win the game tomorrow and dedicate the win to them,” said Molina.
A similar gesture of gratitude was seen from CK Vineeth when he scored for the Kerala Blasters against Atletico on Tuesday.
No revenge game
The return of Antonio Habas, the former Atletico coach who guided the team to the championship in ISL’s inaugural season in 2014 and Kolkata’s loss to the Stallions at Pune makes for some spicy combination going into the game.
However, the former Villareal manager refrained from tagging this as a ‘revenge match’.
“For me, the word revenge doesn’t exist in football. Even if we win today, we are not getting back those three points we lost at Pune.
“It is what they have earned and is theirs to keep.”
The former Spanish international keeper further said that neither he nor his team is under any pressure regarding the return of Habas having achieved their main objective of winning a place in the final four.
"Antonio did a great job at ATK. And I have tried to do the same he while he was trying to do the same at Pune.
“We are only focussed at winning the game tomorrow. I want the players to enjoy playing tomorrow.
We have already achieved our main aim of getting into the semis in our pocket. We are professionals. And there is no additional pressure.
Molina however, revealed that he is likely to give playing time to those who had not featured much this season in the ISL. Thus, we can be looking at a number of changes to the line-up when Atletico take the field tomorrow against Pune.
ATK hit by injuries
The injury bug seems to have hit Kolkata hard at the late stages of the season. Speaking about the situation, Molina said, “Bidya(nand Singh) is currently injured. Sereno is recovering and practised with us before the game against Kerala and should be available.
“Doutie is okay. He had an injury some time back and was recovering well. However, recently he had a fever which was a setback However,he was fit enough to be on the bench last game. He should be okay.”
In his post-match comments following the draw against Kerala Blasters, Molina had confessed that the games against Delhi were the ones that he felt were the toughest challenges that his team has faced. However, going into the semis, he doesn’t feel that he has any preferences.
“Yes, Delhi were the most toughest games, I told you last time around. However, we won here against Delhi and drew the away match,” said Molina on the subject. “But against Mumbai, we lost here and drew the other game. So, you really can’t pick and choose and say that you would like to play against a certain team.
“All opponents in the ISL are very difficult opponents. I am absolutely confident we can win against any opponent.”
Atletico has been plagued by defensive errors which have led to a number of points getting away from them. Molina certainly hopes that those errors are now a thing of the past as they look to become the first team to win the ISL twice.
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