ISL 2016: Atletico de Kolkata squad – A comprehensive guide
Atletico de Kolkata were champions of the first ISL season.
Atletico de Kolkata have booked their places in the history of the Indian Super League after they were crowned as champions in the inaugural version of the tournament back in 2014. They backed it up with a respectable semi-final finish last year, but this year the Calcutta giants will be looking to go the distance once again.
Having bought in a host of new faces yet retaining the spine of the team, this year will see the former champions under a new coach as well, after Antonio Lopez Habas prized himself out of the team’s budget and went on to join FC Pune City.
The Sourav Ganguly owned franchise will also not be playing at their usual 68,000 seater Yubabharati Krirangan, or the Salt Lake Stadium as it is popularly known, which is being renovated for the Under-17 FIFA World Cup next year, but will face their opponents in the 22,000 seater Rabindra Sarobar Stadium instead. Hence, one can expect packed houses and lots of vocal support for the men in the red and white stripes.
ATK kick off their season on 2 October at home against Chennaiyin FC, the same team which beat them 4-2 on aggregate in the knockout stages last year. Here’s a look into this year’s Atletico de Kolkata squad:
Goalkeepers: Debjit Majumder (India), Dani Mallo (Spain), Shilton Paul (India)
Defenders: Arnab Mondal (India), Keegan Pereira (India), Pritam Kotal (India), Kingshuk Debnath (India), Prabir Das (India), Robert Lalthlamuana (India), Pablo Gallardo (Spain), Tiri (Spain)
Midfielders: Abinash Ruidas (India), Bikramjit Singh (India), Bikash Jairu (India), Jewel Raja (India), Lalrindika Ralte (India), Bidyananda Singh (India), Javi Lara (Spain), Sameehg Doutie (South Africa), Borja Fernandez (Spain), Stephen Pearson (Scotland), Ofentse Nato (Botswana),
Forwards: Helder Postiga (Marquee, Portugal), Iain Hume (Canada). Juan Belencoso (Spain)
Head Coach: Jose Francisco Molina
Technical Director: Alberto Marrero
Players re-signed: Arnab Mondal, Jewel Raja, Tiri, Ofentse Nato, Sameehg Doutie, Iain Hume
Atletico’s forte under Habas was their incredibly tight defence, something which saw them lift the title with just 4 wins and 7 draws from all their games. Molina however, plans to move away from the possession-based defensive style of play that has so far been their signature style and play more entertaining and penetrating football.
The former Spanish international, who was a part of La Roja’s 1998 World Cup squad prefers his side to press high and pass quickly when in possession. With six foreigners allowed to feature in the matchday squad, it is obvious that the quality of the imports will play a massive role in determining the team’s success.
In Hume and Postiga, ATK have two proven goalscorers, while the likes of Doutie and Ralte will give the team the width and pace needed to break fast on the counter attack. Arnab Mondal and Tiri will form the centre-back partnership, and they will have to settle in quickly and perform with optimum efficiency if they hope to pocket the trophy once again.
Defensive midfielder Nato will be donning the Kolkata shirt for the third successive season, and his form will be vital since no one does the dirty work in the middle of the park better than him.
Barring Mondal (who was already there), Jairu and Bikramjit Singh, ATK have signed all of their Indian recruits from the two Bengal giants, East Bengal FC and Mohun Bagan FC. The plus point of this is that all the players will be well versed with the climate and demands of the city and the fans respectively, the flip side is this signing a virtually new set of Indians who have not had much time to practice alongside each other could turn out to be a costly mistake.
Only time will decide which way the tide will turn, however.
Players to watch out for
The 34-year-old Portuguese superstar, who has scored 27 goals in 72 appearances for his national team, is all set to reprise his role as ATK’s marquee player. Last season, he started off by scoring a brace on his debut but couldn’t feature in the rest of the tournament, as he was left nursing a hamstring injury.
This year, however, Atletico fans will be hoping that he can pick up from where he left off, and show the brilliance which saw him being picked up in two World Cup and three European Championship squads for Portugal.
The Canadian was the toast of the league last year, as he scored 11 goals which included two hat tricks against Mumbai City FC and Pune City FC. It will be interesting to see how Molina uses both Hume and Postiga in tandem, so that he can extract the best out of both. It is assumed he would put Hume in a withdrawn forward role and Postiga as the lone striker upfront, which would make for a very deadly combination, at least on paper.
The South African midfielder had a good season with ATK last year, as a result of which his services were retained by the club this season. With six assists and three goals, he was the team’s creative outlet offensively and Kolkata fans will be hoping he can replicate that form, this time, out as well.
The Indian was the only domestic defender re-signed by ATK for ISL 3, and they had every reason to do so. The East Bengal centre back has been a rock at the back for the Calcutta outfit and was one of the cornerstones of the defence as his team lifted the coveted title in 2014. With 141 interceptions and 54 blocks, Arnab Mondal will be expected to lead his team from the back once again.
As one can see, Atletico De Kolkata has sufficient depth and quality to go all the way once again. However, Molina and his men will have to be wary of overconfidence and must be street smart, if they are to win back the trophy which was once theirs.