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How can ATK Mohun Bagan beat Hyderabad to reach the final?

ATK Mohun Bagan will host Hyderabad FC at Salt Lake Stadium on Monday, with a place in the Indian Super League (ISL) final at stake, after the two teams drew 0-0 in the first leg in Hyderabad.

The tie is now well underway after the first leg. Juan Ferrando’s team comes to this game in good shape: he has not lost his last four games and has only conceded one goal in that period. The Spaniard hopes it’s a sign of things to come in the second leg, and that his team is peaking at the right time after an on-and-off season.

Hyderabad have won seven away games this season, the second most after Mumbai City FC, so this will be a tough test for ATKMB.

This is how ATKMB can win the second leg:

Stop the long balls, involve Petratos

9 of the other 10 ATKMB starters in the first leg had more ball touches than Dimitrios Petratos. Baffling, when the man is your top scorer and has the most assists on your team this season.

Petratos’ 10 goals and 7 assists this season are the main reason why ATKMB is here at this stage. So when they bypassed him in the first leg and decided to employ long ball tactics, it was strange: one wondered why they had gone for an approach that was obviously so self-defeating.

With Hugo Boumous taking up space around him, and Liston Colaco and Manvir Singh trying to run behind, Petratos’ role as facilitator around him has been a feature of ATKMB’s season.

Odei Onaindia and Chinglensana Singh were dominant in the air against Petratos in the first leg, and it was clearly a case of the team failing to play to the strengths of its most decisive players. But now, in the second leg, with ATKMB firmly in the draw, it is time for Ferrando to decide to take the initiative, involve Petratos in the preparation phase and make things more difficult for the Hyderabad defense.

Make sure Yasir’s left foot doesn’t get damaged.

Mohammed Yasir could well have won the first leg for Hyderabad with a sensational shot from distance that rattled the post. He also had a couple more chances which he created after being allowed to cut easily with his left foot. That left foot is likely to be the main source of creativity for Hyderabad again in the second leg. The youngster had two shots and created two chances in the 49 touches he had in the first leg, and all of them with his left foot.

ATKMB left back Subhasish Bose is old school. He doesn’t blitz forward as much and will be the man tasked with stopping Yasir. The key will be not allowing him to cut from the right flank. Yasir, of course, is able to beat a defender on the outside with a more than capable right foot, but it’s definitely not as potent a weapon as his left.

Make Liston Colaco run on Nikhil Poojari

Nikhil Poojari has had an excellent season at right-back for Hyderabad, but on Monday, ATKMB would do well to test him further. No defender likes a player running at them with speed and the ability to swerve both ways. Liston Colaco has all of that, even if that hasn’t surfaced so far this season.

But on the big days, sometimes it’s better to try to let the class come. Liston has shown enough signs of that before this season. His calm this season has been partly due to being deployed all over the front line with no fixed position, and that has obviously taken a toll on his confidence as well.

But the best way to regain confidence is to get back into good shape, and Liston has an excellent opportunity to do just that. He has speed and skill, and in Boumous and Petratos he has players on his side who are capable of passing the ball to him in danger zones.

After all, Poojari is not a natural right-back. He could potentially wither if the pressure is intense and constant. A side effect of Liston attacking Poojari would also be that linking it reduces the support Yasir gets in Hyderabad’s attacking third, which will only increase ATKMB chances.

What did the coach say?

The next game is a final, and we will have to play offensively. We will try to win the next match and play the final (in Goa), so the mentality of both teams will be to win the match.

I hope we perform well in front of the home fans, but in the end, it’s about 90 minutes. There will be additional motivation to win when we play in front of our fans, which will help us, but our focus will be more on the tactical details, which are more important for winning games. Our supporters are incredible and they will be there 100% on Monday because they want their team to reach the final.