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ISL 2018-19: Atletico's Curse? The Curious Case of ATK and Injuries

06:55 GMT+3 13/11/2018
Kalu Uche ATK
Why is ATK's injury list consistently long?

It was back in January that Ashley Westwood, the then interim coach of ATK cited injuries as the cause for their defeat to Steve Coppell's Jamshedpur in an Indian Super League (ISL) match. 

Atletico Madrid cut their ties with the Kolkata-based ISL franchise a few months before the fourth season of ISL commenced and the club's fortunes in terms of fitness have spiralled downwards ever since. 

'Atletico de Kolkata'  won two league titles in three seasons with a competent squad and support staff working hard behind the scenes. The club underwent a revamp after which Teddy Sheringham was appointed the head coach. A season hit by injuries was what followed.

The club sacked Sheringham and asked technical director Ashley Westwood to fill the vacant role. The former Bengaluru FC coach also failed to get ATK back on track and in the end, Robbie Keane was appointed in a player-manager role to steady the rapidly sinking ship. The team finished the season on the ninth spot, five points off rock bottom. 

Last season, at the Indian player draft, midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh was ATK's first pick but he played just three matches for the club. The team's best Indian player was crocked and ruled out for the season.

Star signing Robbie Keane only took part in half of the fixtures and struggled with fitness early on in the season. Jayesh Rane was injured at the start of the season. Foreign signing Carl Baker was ruled out for the season and replaced by Ryan Taylor in December. Shankar Sampingiraj, Ashutosh Mehta, Anwar Ali and Nallappan Mohanraj were some of the other casualties for ATK during an injury-wrecked season of ISL. 

There were several other injuries with Zequinha and Njazi Kuqi all ending up on the treatment table. The latter played just six games for the club. Augustine Fernandes was ruled out for the entirety of the last season.

ATK were on the constant lookout for new players, given that their foreign signings were all getting injured. 

Coppell took over the reins at the club for the fifth season but the injury list remained long. Andre Bikey and Arnab Mondal were injured at the start of the season and Prabir Das picked up a serious knee injury in pre-season in Spain. The latest casualty on the list is their star striker Kalu Uche, who has been sidelined at least until Christmas.

"Kalu has gone back to Barcelona. He had an extensive tear in his quadriceps muscles. It is grade three which is quite bad. He has gone to Barcelona to receive further medical treatment. He obviously leaves a big hole in our squad," the head coach had revealed. 

Why have the ATK players regularly succumbed to injuries since the start of last season?

The answer could be training methods or even haphazard player recruitment. The team had appointed Djair Miranda Garcia as their Physical Trainer at the start of the season. Although he has had success in the past with Mohun Bagan, it remains to be seen if he can rectify the situation at ATK. 

ATK cannot afford a repeat of last season the coaching staff needs to manage these injuries if the club is to regain their status as one of the best teams in the league.