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ISL Final: ATK vs Chennaiyin FC | Tactical Preview 

  • More than the performances, the final will be a test of the plans drafted outside the pitch, by two of the best coaches in the league.
Alby Issac
Modified 12 Mar 2020, 15:20 IST

David Williams (right) and Edwin Vanspaul (left)
David Williams (right) and Edwin Vanspaul (left)

Chennaiyin FC and ATK will fight it out for their third Indian Super League (ISL) title on the 14th of March at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa. Both sides would be high on confidence as they are entering the match on the back of spectacular semi-final performances. While one tightly held on to a first-leg lead, the other turned the tables completely, even when it seemed improbable.

Thus, it is fair to say the season will have a fitting finale, considering the players on the pitch and the two managers on the sideline.

Antonio Lopez Habas had a mammoth task ahead of him when he returned to his old stomping ground as he hoped to awaken the Kolkata outfit from its slumber. The club possessed a completely different set of players and professed a brand of football which wasn't admired by the Spaniard.

Unsurprisingly, he started from scratch and brought the best foreign names on board, alongside a promising Indian contingent. In the process, ATK started on their journey to regain old glory and are now just a step away from claiming their third ISL trophy.

Owen Coyle, on the other hand, has been a saviour for the Marina Machans. Taking over from John Gregory in the first week of December, most expected the Scottish man to be a manager on a mission to keep his side away from the bottom trenches.

But, Chennaiyin FC found a never before inspiration under Coyle, won four consecutive games and finally got the better of FC Goa - the league winners - to qualify for their third ISL final.

Both the managers will have every inch of their experience and plan in action on Saturday. More than the performances, the final will be a test of the plans drafted outside the pitch, by two of the best coaches in the league this term.

On that note, we look at a tactical preview of what will be coming from the two gaffers on the night of the final.

ATK vs Chennaiyin FC: Tactical Preview

Antonio Lopez Habas
Antonio Lopez Habas

ATK have had a very transparent way to goal throughout the season. The A-League duo Roy Krishna and David Williams have been ruling the league from the onset without any challenge from the competitors. Williams has been a constant support to Krishna and reiterated his heroics with a brace against Bengaluru FC.

Habas will again look to outnumber the midfield with five players including the two sprinters on the wings. Prabir Das and Michael Soosairaj, on either flank, will look to run riot as they have done numerous times before. The primary supply for the two strikers will come from these wingers and Prabir, in particular, has been at the peak of his game recently.

Edu Garcia and Javier Hernandez will form a backup in attack, closely following the strikers and supplying through balls. Regin Michael, if starting, will be the rearguard before the defence and have a vital role of making interceptions in the defensive third.

The backline will have Pritam Kotal, John Johnson and Sumit Rathi clearing out any danger coming into the ATK box.

Prabir Das and Michael Soosairaj, operating as wing-backs, will be the coach's primary route to attack. They will move forward to whip in crosses for the two strikers up front, who free themselves to create scoring chances inside the box.

However, a towering presence like Lucian Goian at the back will force Habas to frame another plan for the final. The finishing duo could drift the defenders out of positions and open up plenty of space. Edu Garcia will provide the numerical advantage in this system, to pitch inch-perfect passes and through balls.

Habas will be looking to exploit Chennaiyin FC's vulnerability against set-pieces. The side have lacked shape while defending free-kicks and corner-kicks and have conceded aplenty from the same. Beating the backline, including the likes of Jerry Lalrinzuala and Laldinliana Renthlei, through set-pieces will be an easier route to glory for ATK.

Chennai's poor marking from set-pieces have eased out movements for the opposition inside the box. Given the likes of physically strong players like Williams and Krishna, Kolkata might heavily rely on fouls in vital areas.

Owen Coyle
Owen Coyle

Chennaiyin FC, meanwhile, will be looking for pace and movement to counter ATK's attacking prospects. While Nerijus Valskis will be at the front to finish off proceedings, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Andre Schembri will be running through the flanks.

Rafael Crivellaro will have a crucial role to link up Valskis and the midfielders and also to step up a second-striker when required.

Anirudh Thapa and Edwin Vanspaul will dictate the game from the centre of the park, distribute the ball to the Blue shirts around and set off counter-attacks.

The backline consisting of Jerry Lalrinzuala, Lucian Goian, Eli Sabia and Laldinliana Rentheli will be put to a tough challenge when coming against the Kolkata outfit. They will bear the duty of not putting Vishal Kaith under pressure, who has conceded five goals from the two legs of the semi-final.

Chennai will look for goals from Nerijus Valskis, who has already found the back of the net 14 times this season. Their best possible way to success will be Crivellaro, playing behind the striker. The Brazilian has been behind some delightful balls which resulted in dangerous chances and will be eyeing the same again.

Chennai will have an additional route into the Kolkata box through the right, exploiting the space left behind by Soosairaj. The winger tends to not trackback on time which was exposed against Bengaluru FC.

Ashique Kuruniyan's pacy run on the wing from a counter-attack led to the only goal ATK conceded in the second-leg. If Crivellaro can move wide on the right flank, join Schembri for a numerical advantage, Sumit Rathi will have a hard time covering the wing.

Owen Coyle will have Thapa take up another vital role in the midfield. He will have a double-shift - to cut out ATK's movements from the middle and create breakthroughs for the forwards. The India International will combine with Edwin to interchange roles to control the game for Chennai.

When the two sides faced each other at the Salt Lake Stadium a month ago, Chennaiyin FC emerged victorious with a 3-1 scoreline. The game saw Chennai make use of the space left behind by the Kolkata attackers. Chhangte was a constant menace to the defence, exploring Prabir’s areas down the flank.

The trio of Valskis-Schembri-Crivellaro combined well with the Indian winger to outnumber ATK’s defence, like many times before this season. Coyle’s troops attacked ATK with pace and were always ahead of the home side’s midfielders dropping down. 

ATK were more content to attack on the break and utilized Prabir’s crossing skills to whip in the ball for Krishna in the box. Even against a familiar tactic, the CFC defence looked troubled and was rescued by Goian alone. With Williams joining Krishna to meet the crosses this time, ATK will possess a greater threat from the same avenue. 

Thus, both the sides, at least for a short patch of time, are sure to have the very exact plan on the field for the final.

Though the sides have a gameplan tried and tested in the league, the managers might surprise us with altered plans. Nevertheless, a tactically rich contest is guaranteed, nullifying any early predictions.

Published 12 Mar 2020, 15:20 IST
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