Football is a team game and titles are won with a collective effort. But, all champion teams have players who get the extra share of the spotlight courtesy of their brilliance and overall influence on the game.
Below are three key players each from ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) and Bengaluru FC (BFC), who are expected to make a mark in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 final.
ATK Mohun Bagan FC
Bengaluru FC’s defensive form has improved just in time for the final, which has seen Simon Grayson’s men being compact and disciplined in defence. If there is someone who specialises in unlocking tight defences, it is ATKMB’s French midfielder Hugo Boumous.
A master at close control, Boumous’ passing range makes him an asset for his team and a danger to opponents. He is equally efficient in making deft passes in tight situations and finding teammates in spaces with long balls.
Also, Boumous is a great ball carrier and rarely loses the ball. Couple that with his prolific nature in front of goal, and Bengaluru FC will have a task at hand in trying to contain the Frenchman.
Boumous has scored five goals and bagged four assists till now in the season, while creating 48 chances for the Mariners.
ATK Mohun Bagan roped in the services of Australian forward Dimitri Petratos to fill the void left by Roy Krishna in terms of scoring goals. But, Petratos has brought a lot more than goals to the table.
Despite the Mariners having an efficient midfield, capable of unlocking defences, Petratos is merely just a poacher and is a complete striker. Apart from finding the net regularly, what makes Petratos such a threat is his ability to hold the ball in the final third and create chances.
Petratos has scored 10 goals and notched seven assists till now for the Mariners. He has also created 54 chances for ATKMB, which is an indication of his ability to make things happen.
It has been a memorable season for ATKMB captain Pritam Kotal. The centre-back has played a major role in the Mariners having the joint-best defence with Hyderabad FC, having kept 12 clean sheets throughout the campaign.
A no-nonsense defender with robust tackling abilities, Kotal will need to be at his best if he wants to keep Bengaluru’s attack at bay, which has quality players in Roy Krishna, Javi Hernandez and Sunil Chhetri.
Kotal has 46 tackles, 45 interceptions, 64 clearances and 27 blocks till now. He has shown discipline in defending by conceding just nine fouls in 23 matches, which is an impressive stat for a defender.
It was Kotal, who scored the decisive penalty in the semifinal shootout against Hyderabad FC to send ATK Mohun Bagan into its second ISL final.
A player is bound to be special if he is benching Sunil Chhetri regularly. That is what Sivasakthi Narayanan has done throughout the current campaign. The 21-year-old BFC forward has been one of the breakout stars of the ISL this season.
Sivasakthi has grabbed eyeballs with his ability to beat defenders courtesy of his quick feet. It is not just his dribbling skills that make the youngster special, but the final product that comes after the hard work. Throughout the season, we have seen him deliver some delicious crosses inside the box, which is a dream for centre-forwards.
A dogged player who does not shy away from a battle, Sivasakthi can prove to be a menace for the ATKMB backline, especially the full-backs, in the final.
Also, Sivasakthi is a big-game player. While this may be a psychological factor rather than a purely footballing one, it is an asset nonetheless because nerves share equal importance with on-pitch abilities in a big occasion like the final. He scored in the Durand Cup final against Mumbai City FC and will look to make a mark in a final again.
In 20 matches, Sivasakthi has 10 goal contributions – six goals and three assists. He has also created 14 chances for his team in the season till now.
Roshan Naorem Singh
Roshan Naorem Singh is another talented youngster in the Bengaluru arsenal who can be a key player for the Blues in the final.
Roshan is the epitome of a modern-day fullback, who maintains a balance between defensive and offensive output. Throughout the season, Roshan has been seen moving up the pitch, playing the extra role of an attacker, with his overlapping runs.
One of Roshan’s biggest assets is his two-footed nature which allows him to operate on either flank with equal efficiency. His ability to deliver pin-point balls is a reason why he takes so many set-pieces for BFC, be it corners or indirect freekicks.
When it comes to stats, Roshan has impressive numbers in defence. He has made 86 tackles, 31 interceptions, 36 clearances and 31 blocks. In terms of attacking output, he has three assists to his name, he has created 25 chances for the Blues.
Javier Hernandez is already ISL champion during his time with the now-defunct ATK FC in his debut season (2019-20) in Indian football.
Hernandez is the type of player who can pull a rabbit out of the hat at any given moment. Usually relying on his immaculate sense of vision to create chances for the forward line, don’t be surprised if you see him take a shot from 30 yards out if he gets a hint of space. And if past instances are anything to go by, he is capable enough to find the net with a screamer.
Even though Javi’s designated position is in the middle of the park, the Spaniard takes every chance to get inside the box and find the net.
Javi has 12 goals contributions in 21 matches- seven goals and five assists. He has also created 42 chances for the Blues this season.
Safe to say, ATKMB head coach Juan Ferrando will surely have words of caution for his defence in dealing with the Spanish midfielder.