Kolkata: High on confidence after an ideal start to their campaign with back-to-back victories, Atletico de Kolkata will look to keep the momentum going when they take on a star-studded Delhi Dynamos FC in their Indian Super League match here on Sunday.
Luis Garcia's men have played some quality football since the franchise league kicked off at this very turf, Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan. (Highlights: Atletico de Kolkata thrash NorthEast United 2-0)
While it was Mumbai City FC who were handed a 0-3 rout at home, in their away fixture, ATK outplayed NorthEast United FC 2-0 despite their strong local presence.
The Dynamos, on the other hand, are yet to fire despite the presence of Italian World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero. They had settled for a goalless draw in their opening game against FC Pune City.
Most of the teams have so far struggled to weave together as a team, even though every side consists of big names. But Kolkata franchise, with its rich Spanish flavour but no World Cuppers and only lesser known players, has surprised many with strong team bonding, something the team think-tank should get the credit for. ATK had a one month pre-season training at Atletico's base camp in Madrid.
It's their UEFA winner and former Liverpool star Garcia who has been the centre of their raids.
Fikru Teferra, after scoring the opening goals in both their matches, will once again be the cynosure of all eyes. The strongly built footballer, who is known for his agility, has shown great anticipation skills and positioning sense. The 28-year-old has so far been a nightmare for the opponents.
Fikru's James Rodriguez-style World Cup goal when he brilliantly chest-trapped the ball, followed by a side-volley to score against NEUFC was a real treat for fans.
It's not only his goalscoring skills, but also his trademark aerial somersault that follows his goals that has been the photographers' and fans' delight.
It will be interesting to see how Dynamos with their Belgian defender Wim Raymakers and Indian Anwar Ali in the central defence contend Fikru.
The fact that Borja Fernandez will be missing on Sunday --after the midfielder was sent off on a double booking -- will be a welcome sign for the Dynamos, who would look to open their account in the tournament.
The former Real Madrid medio, who scored a stunner in the ISL opener, has been a vital cog in the ATK wheel and he will be surely missed by the home side.
It would be interesting to see how Dynamos coach Harm van Veldhoven strategise here as his team lacked finishing touches and was even unlucky on a couple of occasions.
The former Roda JC manager has already acknowledged ATK's strong midfield presence and has stressed on the need to attack as the way forward.
"Kolkata played a very offensive game. I think theirs was the best game I saw till now. But that will not stop us to play offensively. It's a new game and we will go into it with confidence," Veldhoven has said.
A team that boasts of del Piero and being assisted by Mads Junker, Morten Skoubo and Indian Shylo Malswamtulunga, it would be a keen battle against the ATK defence with the presence of Subhasish Roy Chowdhury under the bar who is yet to concede a goal from two matches.
Denzil Franco, Biswajit Saha and Arnab Mondal form the core of ATK's defence and the Indian trio have done well so far, but the team would be extra careful against the Dynamos comprising del Piero.
The Delhi team will also have to battle it out against the roaring presence of the spectators at the colossal VYBK as ATK have already generated a lot of interest among the football-crazy Kolkatans, who had till now only rooted for domestic teams like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting.
"In the first match at Salt Lake Stadium, it was fantastic to see so many people coming to cheer us. In Europe, we hardly get to see more than 60,000 people packed to see a match. Even at Guwahati, where the stadium is smaller, there were about 30,000 people. It's amazing," ATK's marquee player Garcia said.