AFC CUP: Gokulam Kerala vs ATK Mohun Bagan - Top three players to watch out for

ATK Mohun Bagan 2022 AFC CupATK Mohun Bagan

Gokulam Kerala will be raring to take the pitch on Wednesday afternoon at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata where they are set to face the local favourites ATK Mohun Bagan in the AFC Cup. Just a few days back they edged out Mohammedan Sporting to win the I-League crown at the same venue and with the wind in their sails ,they would look to slay another Kolkata giant.

However, needless to say, the Mariners are of a different breed altogether and boast of quality players in every position. In the playoffs, they brushed aside Blue Star of Sri Lanka and Dhaka Abahani from Bangladesh with little difficulty. Juan Ferrando has been working with this team for the past three weeks and has had the opportunity to fine-tune the settings as they played two practice matches against Bengal and the Indian national team respectively.

The team has lofty ambitions in the continental tournament and would look to kick off their campaign with the three points on offer. However, it will not be an easy game for Ferrando's men and the Spaniard knows it very well. Aminou Bouba of Gokulam has been in sensational form for the Malabarians and it will be a battle to watch out between him and Bagan's Roy Krishna, the Fijian who can change the complexion of any match single-handedly.

"We’re happy with the expectations. But we are not favourites. All the other three teams are champions (in their respective leagues) but we are not,” Ferrando said before the match.

“We finished in third position in the last ISL. Maybe the expectations are high because ATKMB have a big name and a very good squad, this is my point of view,” he added.

Ferrando's modest opinion will not change the fact that Bagan have got some brilliant talents in their ranks like Joni Kauko and Liston Colaco to name a couple.

Joni Kauko

The Finnish international was one of the most influential players on the pitch during the AFC Cup playoff fixtures. He ticks all the qualities that you expect from a box-to-box midfielder as he is not only adept at making those ball-winning challenges in midfield but can also thread a pass that would slice open the opposition defence.

Kauko boasts of an incredible work rate and is an absolute asset at the centre of the park. Although he is not accustomed to playing in hot and humid conditions, he has incredible stamina.

His varied passing skills allow Bagan to control the dynamics of the match, whereas his late runs into the box make him difficult to mark. His brace against Blue Star must have definitely boosted his morale and it would not be surprising if he gets on the scoresheet against Gokulam.

Liston Colaco

The winger has been in sublime form since he joined ATK Mohun Bagan in 2021. He was one of the brightest Indian talents in ISL (Indian Super League) and had scored eight goals. A couple of them were screamers from long-range. His dribbling skills coupled with his pace make him a difficult customer to deal with on the wings.

He likes to cut inside and his knack of trying his luck from distance keeps the goalkeeper on his toes. However, he also has the vision to find his teammates inside the box which makes him an invaluable asset for Ferrando.

Aminou Bouba

The centre-back had hardly put a foot wrong for Gokulam in the recently concluded I-League. Gokulam Kerala had the meanest defence in the league, with just 15 goals conceded, and credit must be given to Bouba for marshalling the backline with elan.

He is smart with his tackles and mostly times them perfectly which helps him escape the wrath of the referee. He is also a potent threat in the air which makes him useful during set-pieces in the opposition box. He even scored two goals in I-League which testify that he can find the net on some occasions. He was given the best defender award in I-League.

His duels with Bagan forwards will be interesting, especially with Roy Krishna. If he can check the Fijian's impact in the game, it will be a massive boost to Gokulam.

Article continues below