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ISL 2018-19: Steve Coppell makes the right choice in Emiliano Alfaro to replace Kalu Uche

03:35 GMT+3 18/11/2018
Emiliano Alfaro FC Goa FC Pune City ISL 5
ATK have played it safe by choosing Alfaro to replace the injured Kalu Uche...

ATK were dealt a major blow when Nigerian striker Kalu Uche had to be substituted against Bengaluru FC with an injury to his quadriceps muscles.

Head coach Steve Coppell said after the news was confirmed - "He has gone to Barcelona to receive further medical treatment. He obviously leaves a big hole in our squad."

But the Kolkata-based side were quick to address the issue as they snapped up Emiliano Alfaro from FC Pune City on a loan deal. 

The Uruguayan striker is familiar with Indian conditions as he is in his third season in the Indian Super League (ISL). He does not need any introduction to the sides that he will come across and has already proved his mettle against them. ATK have continued their same philosophy of recruiting tried and tested players with Alfaro's signing.   

Alfaro has proven himself to be a poacher of the highest quality in his time in the ISL. In his first season with NorthEast United FC (NEUFC), he was going through a purple patch and scored five goals in his first seven appearances. Riding on his brilliant form NEUFC looked destined to seal their first play-off berth. But the Highlanders suffered a dip in form at the business end of the season after Alfaro suffered an injury in between. 

In the 2017-18 season, Alfaro couldn't turn down the lucrative offer from Pune and signed for the Orange Brigade. He banged in nine goals in 19 matches and was instrumental behind the Stallion's first ever top four finish. 

It must be noted that ATK have struggled to find the net this season regularly and Alfaro's addition will add more teeth to their attack. Coppell likes to have a target-man upfront and Alfaro will certainly have his task cut out in the attacking third. With Manuel Lanzarote and Everton Santos in midfield, there will be no dearth of quality service for him. It has to be noted that Alfaro has had an average season so far, scoring once and missing two penalties. The onus will be on him to make the best use the chance he has got at ATK now. 

He is an opportunistic striker and his movement inside the box makes him a difficult customer to deal with for opposition defenders. Out of his nine goals last season, seven were from inside the box which further emphasises his poaching abilities. 

The injury to Uche might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for ATK. The former Espanyol striker missed parts of their pre-season and has looked only a shadow of his former self. But in Alfaro, the Sanjeev Goenka co-owned side have found a player who is match fit and has looked sharp on the pitch. He has already played 480 minutes this season and is in perfect shape to hit the ground running.

The quicker Alfaro gels with his new teammates, the better for ATK. With 10 points from seven games, ATK are within sniffing distance of the fourth spot. If Alfaro can present himself as the missing piece in the jigsaw, then ATK can definitely hope to erase the horrific memories of last season.