While the Indian Super League (ISL) is fast approaching the end of its league stages as the knockout clashes start next month, UEFA Champions League is back with a host of mouth-watering fixtures in the mid-week.
Football fanatics have an enthralling week ahead of them and we are here to provide you with numbers that might just help you predict the outcomes.
ATK Mohun Bagan vs SC East Bengal
Their positions in the ISL points table might be far apart but the sense of intensity that a Kolkata derby evokes in any fixture doesn’t take into account the playoff chances of the teams. After ATKMB dominated the first-ever Kolkata Derby in ISL last year, their arch-rivals will look to make amends.
On paper, ATKMB are undoubtedly the stronger side with better players - most of whom have been playing together for long and are in form as well. Not only the team, but they also have a manager Antonio Lopez Habas at the helm who has already won the league title twice on previous occasions.
East Bengal, on the other hand, have become a more settled side by now, as opposed to the eleventh-hour assembled side that kick-started ISL in a terrible manner. However, despite their stable performances, their inability to close games and lack of experienced personnel makes them the second favourites.
East Bengal have won just three of the 17 matches that they have played, scoring 15 times and conceding 22 goals. The Mariners, on the other hand, have conceded just 10 goals (the lowest in the league) and have scored 23 goals (the fourth-highest).
Player to watch: Roy Krishna
The Fijian international is the prime contender for the Golden Boot now with 11 goals to his name already. After a rocky start to the season owing to less pre-season time, Roy Krishna is finally in the groove and his last goal for ATKMB against Jamshedpur FC was the proof. Playing more as a number 10, Krishna drops to the midfield to win balls and spray it to the flanks, which gives him more of the ball and take more attempts. He is expected to be the difference-maker on Friday, February 19.
Barcelona vs PSG
Barcelona might approach their UEFA Champions League knockout clash against Paris Saint-Germain at the back of a thumping 5-1 win over Alaves in La Liga, but the Catalans’ record against big teams this season will be the biggest cause of worry for Lionel Messi and Co.
The La Liga giants had ended their UCL group stages with a 3-0 home loss to Juventus, and have already been defeated by Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in their domestic campaign. Furthermore, Barcelona’s underwhelming form in knockout events – whether it be their recent 2-0 loss to Sevilla in the Cope del Rey semi-final first leg or the 3-2 loss to Athletic Club in the Supercopa de Espana – has also hampered their season so far. Hence, Barca would hardly be the overwhelming favourites on Wednesday.
PSG, on the other hand, have shaken off their early-season jitters under new manager Mauricio Pochettino. The ex-Tottenham Hotspur boss has won eight of the 10 games he has been in charge and although Neymar won’t be available for selection for this big game, Kylian Mbappe and Co. would be optimistic about a positive result at the Camp Nou.
PSG’s concern, however, has been their inconsistency. While PSG have registered victories over teams like OGC Nice and Marseille, the giants have been stopped by the likes of FC Lorient and St. Etienne.
Player to Watch: Lionel Messi
The Barcelona talisman specializes in the European tournament, having scored 126 goals in 156 matches so far, and his lethal left foot is expected to strike the back of the net yet again, on Wednesday. Messi, who already has three goals and two assists this season in UCL, has faced PSG on eight occasions in the tournament, where he has scored four goals and provided one assist. Barcelona have won four and lost two of those matches.
Feature Image Courtesy: ISL