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ISL 2017-18: Ashley Westwood - We still have a fighting chance

1:22 PM WAT 07/02/2018
Ashley Westwood ATK Bengaluru FC ISL 4 2017/2018
ATK coach Ashley Westwood is still hopeful of qualifying for the playoff stage....

Defending champions ATK host Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League (ISL) clash on Thursday at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata.

It is a must-win game for Kerala Blasters who are still in contention for a top 4 spot and qualification for the playoff round. For the hosts, it is a matter pride as they have lost their last four matches and three of them were on home soil.

On paper, ATK can still qualify for the last four stage if they when their remaining five matches. Speaking about his team's chances, coach Ashley Westwood said, "We still have a fighting chance. If we finish with 27 points, we can give ourselves some hope. All of them are professional footballers. For me, we don't  need motivation."

Westwood continued, "There are 20 teams now if you include ISL and I-League. The players need to get contracts to stay in the league or the club. I believed the players like the looks and feel of ISL. They have to show good endeavour and desire otherwise they might find themselves out of the ISL next season."

The British coach praised his side for a dominant show against table toppers Bengaluru FC in their previous match. He said, "We completely dominated Bengaluru FC who are leading the table by seven points. Not many teams have dominated Bengaluru."

On Thursday's opponents Kerala Blasters, the ATK coach opined, "They have got confidence all of a sudden. They are playing a lot quicker. David James filled them with intent and desire. Sandesh Jhingan is suspended and Iain Hume looks like he won't play."

On his team's chances against Blasters, Westwood said, "It comes down to the character. It is not difficult at all. Boys have to play to win and for me, this is second nature. I am trying to instil in players to take encouragement from last game. If we played like we did against Bengaluru FC then we have a good chance against Kerala (Blasters)."

There were some rumours that suggested that Robbie Keane may perform a player-manager role at the club but Westwood rubbished all rumours suggesting, "There is no marquee player, coach rule in ISL this season. Keane has a groin injury and is out for quite a while. He is out for tomorrow surely. (David) Cotterill and Zequinha have long-term injuries. I am not sure if we can field full bench tomorrow. We have had 40-43 injuries this season which is incredible. Keane suffered an Injury last game and overnight it looked sore. I hope he settles quickly. He is a very quick healer."

Westwood was asked about the top five Indian players in the league this season, to which replied, "(Sunil) Chhetri sits at the top of the ladder. Most of the Bengaluru FC players are consistent. Balwinder (Singh), Lalruatthara, Amrinder Singh and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu are all strong players. It is very difficult to name five players."