Gokulam Kerala vs ATK Mohun Bagan: Preview and Prediction￼
Two Indian teams in Gokulam Kerala and ATK Mohun Bagan will go head-to-head in the first round fixture of the 2022 AFC Cup on Wednesday, 18th May, at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.
Gokulam Kerala will be buzzing with confidence coming into this match, as they recently lifted the 2021-22 I-League by beating Mohammedan in the last fixture. With this victory, the team from Kozhikode has become only the second club to win the first-division competition on two consecutive occasions, after East Bengal did it a couple of decades ago.
On the other hand, ATK Mohun Bagan will not be pleased with their performance in the 2021-22 season of the Indian Super League, as they lost both the shield and the cup. However, with that being said, it has been to be noted that the Mariners have performed exceptionally well in the qualifying stages of this competition.
It has been only a few days since Gokulam Kerala handed Mohammedan a 2-1 defeat in the final game of the 2021-22 I-League season, and quite understandably, they will be hungry for more success having tasted blood very recently.
As for their current form, they have lost only a single game in their last five encounters – against Sreenidi Deccan before they defeated the Black Panthers. They have won three of the other four fixtures and settled for a stalemate in the match against Churchill Brothers.
On the other hand, ATK Mohun Bagan recently defeated the Indian national team in a preparatory friendly, while they were handed a shock defeat by the vivacious Santosh Trophy team of Bengal. However, if we are to keep the realm restricted to only competitive matches, Juan Ferrando’s team is coming into this game on the back of consecutive victorious.
The Mariners were up against Sri Lankan side Blue Star in the preliminary round two of this competition, where they registered a very comfortable 5-0 win. The performance was convincing in the play-off round as well, where Ferrando’s men handed Bangladeshi side Abahani Limited Dhaka a 3-1 defeat.
Head to Head Record
Since the merger of ATK and Mohun Bagan, these two sides have never crossed paths. However, the erstwhile Mohun Bagan has played three matches against the Malabarians, where they have drawn twice and won the other fixture. That victory came in the last meeting back in December of 2019, where a Fran Gonzalez brace helped the Mariners register a 2-1 triumph.
Given that his team won the last fixture, there is no reason for the Malabarians’ head coach Vicenzo Alberto Annese to make changes to his playing XI but we can expect one change. Afghan midfielder Sharif Mukhammad was not available for the Mohammedan clash owing to a suspension, but he will be available for selection in this match and is likely to replace Rishad PP.
As for the formation, Annese usually prefers to stick to his 4-3-3 set-up. Rakshit Dagar is likely to be in goal behind a four-man backline of Abdul Hakku, Alex Saji, Aminou Bouba and Muhammad Uvais. Besides Mukhammad, Emil Benny and Zodingliana Ralte are likely to comprise the midfield unit, whilst Thahir Zaman, Jourdaine Fletcher and Luka Majcen will be entrusted with the responsibility of finding the back of the net.
Ferrando is expected to match Annese’s 4-3-3 formation, but he will have a few key decisions to make ahead of this fixture. The spearhead of the Mariners’ attack, Roy Krishna is back in training, but David Williams has been in extraordinary form recently.
The Australian netted a hat-trick against Abahani Limited Dhaka, while he also scored a goal against Blue Star. Hence, the Spanish tactician is likely to continue with Williams upfront, with Manvir Singh and Liston Colaco deployed on the flanks. Besides Williams, Tiri, Joni Kauko and Hugo Boumous are expected to be the other three foreigners in ATK Mohun Bagan’s playing XI.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Gokulam Kerala (4-3-3): Rakshit Dagar; Abdul Hakku, Alex Saji, Aminou Bouba, Muhammad Uvais; Emil Benny, Sharif Mukhammad, Zodingliana Ralte; Thahir Zaman, Jourdaine Fletcher, Luka Majcen.
ATK Mohun Bagan (4-3-3): Amrinder Singh; Prabir Das, Pritam Kotal, Tiri; Subhasish Bose; Joni Kauko, Deepak Tangri, Hugo Boumous; Manvir Singh, David Williams, Liston Colaco.
Though Gokulam Kerala will be the more confident lot among the two sides, the gulf in quality on paper is something we should keep in considering as well. Being an ISL team, ATK Mohun Bagan possesses the very best of Indian talents including some excellent foreign players, and to add to that, playing in front of their home crowd will also be a major boost. Accordingly, we have predicted Ferrando’s men to bag all three points from this fixture.