ATK Mohun Bagan will host Hyderabad FC at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday, with a spot in the Indian Super League (ISL) final to play for, after the two teams played out a goalless draw in the first leg in Hyderabad.
The tie is currently finely poised after the first leg. Juan Ferrando's side go into this game in good form - they've not lost their last four matches, and have conceded just one goal in that period. The Spaniard will be hoping that it is a sign of things to come in the second leg, and that his team is peaking at the right time after a stop-start season.
Hyderabad have won seven away games this season - the second most after Mumbai City FC, so this will be a stern test for ATKMB.
Here's how ATKMB can win the second leg:
Stop the long balls, involve Petratos
9 of the 10 other ATKMB starters in the first leg had more touches of the ball than Dimitrios Petratos. Puzzling, when the man is your top-scorer and has the most assists in your team this season.
Petratos's 10 goals and 7 assists this season are the prime reason why ATKMB are even here at this stage. So when they bypassed him in the first leg and decided to employ long-ball tactics, it was strange - one wondered why they had gone for an approach that was so obviously counter-productive.
Odei Onaindia and Chinglensana Singh were dominant in the air against Petratos in the first leg, and it was clearly a case of the team not playing to their most decisive player's strengths. But now, in the second leg, with ATKMB firmly in the tie, it is time for Ferrando to decide to take the initiative, get Petratos involved in the build-up phase, and make things harder for the Hyderabad defence.
Ensure Yasir's left foot doesn't do damage
Mohammed Yasir could've very well won the first leg for Hyderabad with a sensational strike from distance that rattled the post. He also had a couple of other chances that he created after being allowed to cut in easily on his left foot. That left foot is once again likely to be the prime source of creativity for Hyderabad in the second leg. The youngster had two shots and created two chances in the 49 touches he had in the first leg, and all of them were with his left foot.
Subhasish Bose, ATKMB's left-back, is from the old school. He doesn't bomb forward as much, and will be the man tasked with stopping Yasir. The key will be to not allow him to cut in from the right flank. Yasir of course is capable beating a defender on the outside with a more-than-capable right foot, but it is most definitely not as potent a weapon as his left is.
Get Liston Colaco running at Nikhil Poojari
Nikhil Poojari has had an excellent season at right-back for Hyderabad, but on Monday, ATKMB would do well to test him even further. No defender ever likes a player running at him with pace and the ability to drift either side. Liston Colaco has all of that, even if those haven't come to the fore so far this season.
But on big days, sometimes it's best to try and allow class to come through. Liston has shown enough signs of that prior to this season. His lull this season has partly been down to being deployed all across the frontline without a fixed position, and that has obviously impacted his confidence as well.
But the best way to bring confidence back is to play yourself back into good form, and Liston has an excellent opportunity to do just that. He's got speed and trickery, and in Boumous and Petratos, he's got players alongside who are capable of giving the ball to him in dangerous areas.
After all, Poojari is not a natural right-back. He could potentially wilt if the pressure is intense and consistent. A side-effect of Liston attacking Poojari would also be that pegging him back reduces the support Yasir gets in Hyderabad's attacking third, which will only further ATKMB's chances.
What did the coach say?
The next match is a final, and it will be necessary to play offensively. We will try to win the next match and play in the final (in Goa), so the mentality of both teams will be to win the match.
I hope we perform well in front of the home fans, but in the end, it is all about 90 minutes. There will be extra motivation to win when we play in front of our supporters, which will help us, but our focus will be more on the tactical details, which are more important to winning games. Our supporters are amazing, and they will be there 100% on Monday because they want their team to reach the final.