The seventh season of the Indian Super League (ISL) will kick-off with the high-octane Kerala Blasters vs ATK Mohun Bagan clash at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim, Goa, on Friday. With some of the biggest ISL transfer businesses done by both the clubs, the tournament opener will see two star-studded line-ups taking on each other.
Kerala Blasters’ aggressive hack-and-chop approach continued ahead of the ISL 2020-21 season as the club sacked Eelco Schattorie to rope in 2019-20 I-League winning coach Kibu Vicuna, who is their tenth manager in seven ISL seasons. The Tuskers have recruited foreign stars like Facundo Pereyra, Gary Hooper, Bakary Kone, and others to help Vicuna make an instant impact. The eventful summer ISL transfer window also saw former Bengaluru FC star Nishu Kumar arriving at the club as Kerala lost out on fan-favourite Sandesh Jhingan to ATK Mohun Bagan.
ATK MOHUN BAGAN
ATK Mohun Bagan are coming to the tournament with a set core of players who are familiar with Antonio Habas’ tactics both on and off the pitch. And with defensive reinforcements like Jhingan, Tiri, and Subhasish Bose joining the Kolkata outfit, ATK Mohun Bagan are the favourites on paper to win the clash on Friday at a neutral venue. Indian international Manvir Singh will be an understudy to Roy Krishna and David Williams upfront as the management ensured that all their bases were covered for the season.
Kerala Blasters (4-3-3): Albino Gomes; Nishu Kumar, Bakary Kone, Costa Nhamoinesu, Jessel Carneiro; Vicente Gomez, Jeakson Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad; Facundo Pereyra, Rahul KP, Gary Hooper
ATK Mohun Bagan (3-4-1-2): Arindam Bhattacharya; Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Tiri; Prabir Das, Pronay Halder, Carl McHugh, Subhasish Bose; Javi Hernandez; David Williams, Roy Krishna
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Without a doubt, ATK Mohun Bagan’s biggest source of goals will be strikers David Williams and Roy Krishna. After the duo had ended their debut ISL (2019-20) season with a combined 19 goals and nine assists, Habas’ instruction will be to give them the ball as frequently as possible. Apart from the striking duo, wing-backs Prabir Das and Sumit Rathi will be a constant threat for opponents when on the offence. Das had racked up five assists last season from the right flank while young Rathi displayed tremendous grit from the other flank.
After losing out on Bartholomew Ogbeche in the summer to Mumbai City FC, Kerala Blasters fans would hope Hooper to get his engine running as fast as possible. The striker comes with a tremendous reputation from the A-League where he had scored eight goals and five assists in 21 matches. Like ATK Mohun Bagan, Kerala have Nishu Kumar and in the wing-back roles. While Kumar scored two goals in ISL last season, Carneiro had five assists to his name.
WHERE TO WATCH KERALA BLASTERS VS ATK MOHUN BAGAN
The ISL 2020-21 season opener will be broadcasted in India from 7:30 PM IST in Star Sports 1, Star Sports 2, Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 Hindi, and their respective HD TV channels. You can also live stream the match on Disney+ Hotstar and JioTV.
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