ISL 2016: 20 points seems to be the magical figure for Atletico de Kolkata striker Juan Belencoso
"20 seems to be the magic number for me, that's a point total I think that should be enough to see a team through to the playoff", says Juan Belencoso as he opened up for the first time in front of the Indian media. Tell that to NorthEast United last year and they might just remind you of their fate last season, as they missed out on getting to the 20 point mark last season.
The first season wasn’t so demanding though as two teams including Atletico de Kolkata got into the final four even after being on 19 points. Reflecting on the season so far and their next game against table-toppers Delhi, Spanish striker Juan Belencoso gave his piece of mind.
Delhi Dynamos have begun tightening the screws of late, becoming the only free-scoring side in this year’s Indian Super League so far. The Lions have roared to the top of the league after winning their last three games and their 4-1 demolition of defending champions Chennaiyin should give today’s opponents, Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) fits when it comes to stopping the juggernaut Gianluca Zambrotta has cooked up in the Nothern parts of the country.
ATK meanwhile have some serious questions to ask themselves. However, when their Spanish forward took to the mic before the game, he seemed to have all the answers. After a strong start to their campaign which saw Jose Molina’s men go unbeaten in their first five games, the team from the City of Joy seem to have lost their way, losing two of their last three games.
ATK have the quality
However, the Spaniard brushed off concerns regarding the team’s consistency, which has been off.
“I think everything will fall into place. We can't win every match,” quipped Belencoso. “The most important thing is that we are still in the playoff spot.”
Kolkata have found scoring from open play hard to come by this season. Having scored 3 of their 9 goals from the penalty spot. And that has come to bit them hard in the last three games as they failed to find the back of the net from open play in only on their games. However, going into the game against the in-form side, the 35-year-old have full confidence that his team can upset the applecarts.
Speaking about the lessons to be learnt from the last few games, the Spaniard stated, “I don't know if there is anything specific. We just need to execute on the pitch much better. We have confidence in ourselves. We have good players. We are a good team and at the end of the day, the quality will speak for itself.”
And the struggle has been everywhere, feels Belencoso. “We have made some mistakes at the back as well, and that have let us down at times. But I have to take responsibility for that as well. Defence starts from the front and me as forward is also responsible,” opined the former Albacete forward.
Looking forward to the game ahead, he feels facing Delhi at their own den will undoubtedly be one of the biggest test of the season for Jose Molina’s men. “For me, Delhi is one of the best in the league. We have confidence in our team. We are only focussed in our team and our football. And I am confident that we can eke out a result from there,” said Belencoso.
Kolkata had won the home leg against Delhi earlier this season in what could be described as one of the weirdest games of the season. After going a man down and giving away a penalty (which was eventually missed by Marcelinho), Kolkata went on to win the game via a penalty of their own late on in the game.
And Belencoso was quick to admit that it was one that they got away with it.
“To be fair, you can consider that a lucky win.
“Delhi dominated for most of the game. But at the end of the day, we scored and that’s what matters. You have to give us credit that we held on to be in that position. But all that's just past we are focusing on the match and three points.
Threats everywhere for Delhi
Florent Malouda has been one of the rare marquee signings to have a telling contribution to his team’s fortune this season. However, Belencoso is quick to refute any claims that they have to be especially wary of the former French international
“Yeah, Malouda is a great player and we all know about it. However, we can't only focus on him. They (Delhi) have other really good players as well like Richard Gadze and Marcelinho. But more than that we have to focus on playing well and if we can do that we can win the match.”
This could be a turning point for both teams this season. Whilst a win for Delhi will see them stretch out a four-point lead at the top, any mishap from Kolkata will result in a loss and another body blow to the side who have not looked their best in recent times. However, a win, on the other hand, will take them a point off the top of the table and that too with a game in hand.