Former champions Atletico de Kolkata will take on FC Pune City in a grudge but inconsequential Indian Super League football fixture at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium here tomorrow.
In what was to be the most-anticipated ISL match for ATK fans, the last round contest has been reduced a mere academic game as the home team has already made the semifinals for a third successive season, while Pune are already out of reckoning much similar to their fate in previous two editions.
The match will for the first time see ATK’s former coach Antonio Habas in the opponents’ dug-out in Kolkata but the hosts will not worry and will look to finetune themselves ahead of their play-off fixture.
Having coached ATK to lift the silverware in the inaugural edition and then taking them till the last-four in 2015, Habas switched allegiance to FC Pune City this season but the Spaniard is still a popular face in the city.
Habas seemed in a cheeky mood when he said both teams could not be compared like two ‘girlfriends’.
“The two cannot be compared. Just like you cannot compare two girlfriends,” he said.
On a serious note, he however added: “This is not between me and ATK but Pune and ATK. We will go for three points tomorrow and end on a high.”
Habas has failed to replicate the results he had with ATK and he would look to play for pride against his former team.
“For me, prior to the kick-off, this match will be special but once the match starts, there will be nothing special,” Habas told the match eve news conference.
FC Pune City are placed sixth in the table with 15 points from 13 matches and Habas will be disappointed with how the team’s campaign shaped up this season.
He missed the first four matches due to suspension but even after his return, he failed to inspire Pune.
ATK, on the other hand, became the first and only team to qualify for semi-finals for three consecutive years.
New coach Jose Molina proved just as good as Habas as he successfully achieved the first target and will now look to go one step ahead.
“We want to win this game as well. We will try and win this game, possibly by giving a chance to some players (who did not feature earlier). They are working well and did not get too many opportunities to play. I have confidence in them.
They can play,” Molina said.
ATK will have another reason to smile as midfielder Sameegh Doutie is available for tomorrow’s match after recuperating from fever.
“Doutie is ok and fit for tomorrow’s game,” Molina said.
He indicated that goalkeeper Debjit Mazumder and central defender Henrique Sereno, who have bookings, may be rested.
“I don’t want them to be suspended for the semis,” Molina said.
ATK have, however, struggled at home this season. They have managed to win just one of their six matches at home this season, drawing four and losing the other one.
If they fail to win against Pune tomorrow, it will be their worst home campaign in the history of ISL