ISL 2017-18: Ashley Westwood - Indian players need to step up

ATK coach Ashley Westwood thinks that they can still qualify for the playoffs...

Struggling ATK are up against Indian Super League (ISL) leaders Bengaluru FC in a crucial encounter on Saturday at the Salt Lake stadium, Kolkata.

It is a must-win game for the reigning champions with their poor run of form diminishing their playoff hopes considerably.

"It is mathematically possible (to qualify for the playoffs). Five wins and a draw or six straight wins will do the job. (We) have to be professional as we have a duty to the fans and the club. We have to fire on all cylinders to get three points."

Ashley Westwood will be facing former Bengaluru FC - a team with whom he has won every possible trophy in Indian football. The British coach won two I-League titles and a Federation Cup with The Blues and also took the team to the quarterfinal of AFC Cup.

But the Manchester United academy graduate refused to term the match as 'emotional'. He said, "I have been in football long enough and played against old teams both as a player and a coach."

Bengaluru FC ATK

ATK, who have qualified for the playoffs in all the three ISL editions so far, are currently struggling at the eight position in the league table and are in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the first time.

When this was put forward to Westwood, he said, "(We've had) too many injuries. We couldn't keep the same starting lineup. No one settled in. No consistency in the side. We need to keep trying." 

But Westwood whole-heartedly complimented his former side who are the current league leaders.

He said, "Bengaluru FC are a good side. They are top for a reason. They have good foreigners and good Indian players. They score a lot from set pieces so we need to take that into account. We need a good strong referee tomorrow. They use body blocks from set pieces some of which can be fouls."

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The ATK coach also gave an update on the condition of marquee player Robbie Keane. "(Only) light training for him. We have to assess his condition. We have to make sure we don't make a wrong decision. If required, he will be fine," said Ashley.  

ATK have managed to score just eight goals in the league so far and Westwood suggested that they need to score more goals. He said, "In the previous season, we had a lot more goals at this stage. Even though we haven't conceded much we need to score more. Indians players need to step up and score goals."