Bengaluru, Dec 12 (PTI) Table-toppers Bengaluru FC would look to continue their unbeaten streak when they take on ATK on Thursday before the Hero Indian Super League takes a break for next year's Asian Cup.
Bengaluru FC are at the top of the table with 24 points, following seven wins and three draws, while ATK are placed sixth with 16 points after four wins, four draws and three losses.
All eyes will be on ATK's John Johnson, who had spent five years at Bengaluru FC and Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who was an integral part of the club for three seasons.
While the English defender has continued to be a regular for his new side ATK, the same cannot be said for Lyngdoh, who has amassed a mere 23 minutes this season for ATK.
Bengaluru FC, though, haven't been affected by their absence. They have the meanest defence in the league, conceding a mere eight goals with Albert Serran and Juanan forming an able partnership at the back.
"Last season, after 10 games we had 18 points and this season we have 24. We have to be happy. It was a wonderful season last year. We reached the first position, keeping a distance (from the rest)," coach Cuadrat said.
"We have played five games with Miku and five games without him. In the first five games we got 13 points and the next five, we got 11. He is a very important player but the rest of the guys have been working wonderfully and getting the points."
In midfield, Harmanjot Khabra will be missing the tie due to suspension which means Cuadrat could either opt to play three foreign midfielders in Erik Paartalu, Xisco Hernandez and Dimas Delgado or possibly hand a chance to Boithang Haokip.
"I am expecting a tough game from ATK. They want to win the points and this is a very important game for them. We are working on the plan for the game," said the Bengaluru coach.
ATK, on the other hand, come into the game on the back of a goalless draw in Guwahati.
In fact, three of their last four matches have ended in goalless draws. They are the only side to have less than 100 shots in the league so far and only Delhi Dynamos have scored fewer goals in the league than ATK.
Against a strong Bengaluru defence, it won't be easy for Steve Coppell's men.
"We try to win every game. We don't think about other options. I don't know how to play for a draw. That will be the philosophy for tomorrow's game," said ATK head coach Coppell.
Coppell's team are difficult to break down as they have defensively strong players in Johnson, Andre Bikey, Gerson Vieira and Pronay Halder.
The English coach will once again employ similar tactics against Bengaluru FC as in the reverse fixture in Kolkata which ended 2-1 in favour of the visitors.
"I'm expecting a tough game. They are unbeaten. They are strong defensively and in offence. It's a challenge for every team to try and beat them and be the first team to do so. It will be a tough game but we will try," said Coppell.
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