After an emphatic 3-2 win at the home of defending champions Chennaiyin FC, Steve Coppell’s ATK now find themselves in Guwahati to face NorthEast United FC in the 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL).
After a slow start, ATK have gathered momentum and a win on Saturday can see them rise to fourth spot on the table.
“Sometimes it takes time to get to know to your squad. You need to know the key components of the team, find the right combination and the variety of the team. You gather knowledge about the squad as the season progresses. You have to work hard on a daily basis and try to bring out the best of the players you have”, Coppell said on his team’s slow start to the season.
The former Manchester United winger appreciated the work of his NorthEast United counterpart Eelco Schattorie for guiding the team to the third place on the table currently. In the reverse tie between these two teams at the Salt Lake Stadium, the Highlanders emerged victors after Rowllin Borges scored a late winner.
On asked whether that result will have any impact on Saturday’s game, he said, “It is difficult to say. We lost a player in the first 30 minutes of that match due to sending off (Sena Ralte) and that changed the complexion of the game.
“Thereafter, we tried hanging on hoping for breaks. But because we were so set in our defence, it was difficult for NorthEast United to play their football. It was only a set piece in the very last minute that was our undoing. I certainly think both sides have improved since then.
“NorthEast have certainly grown in confidence. They have been winning games and are a well disciplined and solid team. Credit to the coach. Where they are in the league is not an accident. It will be a real tough game and I hope it will be a good game for the people who are watching.”
However, Coppell has been dealt a blow after his trusted lieutenant and long-time assistant Wally Downes left the club to take up a full-time role with AFC Wimbledon in the English Football League.
The Briton said, “It is bound to have an effect. He was here for a reason. He is a good coach. He puts his heart and soul into what he does. He had a great opportunity in England. It’s the team he played for. It was one of the few job positions he would have left ATK for.
“But we have to get on with it. We have to spread our wings and take up the slack. We will bring another coach for sure. But of course, we have very little time before the break. So nothing will happen before that.”