The cash-rich league returns for a fourth season and its new avatar is bigger and better than ever.
The Indian Super League 2017/18 season is less than a week away from kicking off and it’s expected to be a very special season because of the expansion of the league to 10 teams this year. The inclusion of two new teams in Bengaluru FC from the I-League and Jamshedpur FC have added a new dimension to the ISL and will ensure that the league is even more competitive than what it has been for the past three seasons.
All the clubs have almost brand new squads after the players draft earlier this year and have brought in some world-class players to boost their chances of lifting the trophy this season. There is going to be a lot of exciting talent on display in the ISL this season and we take a look at the top 10 players to watch out for this season.
10. Adrian Colunga (FC Goa)
FC Goa completely changed up their team after a disastrous performance last season, with new coach Sergio Lobera bringing in Spanish Striker Adrian Colunga to lead the line for them this season. Colunga brings a lot of experience with him having played for teams like Getafe, Sporting Gijon, Las Palmas and even Brighton and Hove Albion in the past. He has an impressive goalscoring record and will blend in well with the Spanish manager.
Colunga will need to showcase his hunger for goals if Goa are to have a better season this time around and knowing his experience and stellar eye for goal, he’ll probably be putting in many in the back of the net.
9. Halicharan Narzary (NorthEast United FC)
Narzary will look to further showcase his magic on the wings for NorthEast United
Halicharan Narzary was one of the players retained by NorthEast United FC ahead of the ISL draft and you can’t really blame them for doing so. Narzary was pretty impressive for the Highlanders last season and further improved his game in the I-League where he scored four goals in the season for DSK Shivajians.
The 23-year old winger is now a regular in the national team, with his stunning crossing ability and pace on the wings helping his cause. His great goal-scoring record makes him a brilliant player all-around, as he’ll be crucial to NorthEast’s success this season and will need to prove his quality to help them make it to the knockout stages.
8. Lucian Goian (Mumbai City FC)
Lucian Goian was a key reason for Mumbai City FC’s terrific defensive record last season as the Romanian defender looked over the defence really well throughout the tournament. Goian fits into manager Alexandre Guimaraes’ squad perfectly, linking up really well with his fellow defenders and not allowing the oppositions to get a sniff at goal.
Goian’s heroics helped Mumbai City get eight clean-sheets in the league matches, as well as leading the defensive charts with an amazing 67 tackles in the league matches itself last season Goian’s amazing work was noticed by Mumbai who decided to sign him back for this campaign and we can expect Guimaraes’ side to be a solid defensive unit with Goian at the heart of the back four.
7. Kalu Uche (Delhi Dynamos FC)
Kalu Uche may turn out to be a brilliant signing for Delhi Dynamos, with the Nigerian striker bringing a lot of experience and goalscoring skills with him to the capital club. Uche has played for La Liga clubs Levante and Espanyol and also scored two goals in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
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He is a powerful striker who has the exact hunger for goals needed from the Dynamos to go all the way this season. Uche has already scored some goals in pre-season for Delhi and will look to continue his impressive form in the ISL, where he already impressed for FC Pune City in 2015 and scored four goals in his debut season.
6. Jeje Lalpekhlua ( Chennaiyin FC)
Jeje Lalpekhlua was one of the first players to be retained by Chennaiyin FC before the ISL draft, as he’s earned the trust of the franchise due to his brilliant work for them over the past three seasons. Lalpekhlua didn’t have that good a season for Chennaiyin last year, but his impressive consistency made them retain him for their team. The striker needs to be at his best to make the Chennaiyin attack as lethal as season 2 when they lifted the ISL title.
He’s not only a great goalscorer but can create opportunities as well as be a second striker, which makes him a valuable asset for Chennaiyin who will hope the forward finds his form and helps them roll over the opposition once again.
5. Sameehg Doutie (Jamshedpur FC)
Doutie will be key to Jamshedpur’s success in their debut season
Sameehg Doutie turned out to be a great signing for ATK last season when he finally blended in with the team and gave some amazing performances to help the side to their second ISL Title. Doutie is a really creative winger, who has shown impressive speed and an eye for goal as well, with his set-piece delivery also being on point for ATK last season.
He provided the all-important assist for Henrique Sereno’s equalizer in the final against Kerala Blasters last year and will don new colours this season. Doutie will look to continue his great work in the ISL and kick-start Jamshedpur’s ISL stint with a bang, proving why they did well by signing the exciting South African.
4. Marcelinho (FC Pune City)
Marcelinho lit up the ISL last season as part of the Dynamos, with the Brazilian scoring goals for fun and helping his team rack up a lot of points on the board as well. Marcelinho introduced himself to Indian Football brilliantly with his terrific showcase in ISL 3, where he not only scored some amazing goals, but his tricky movement and creativity was on point, many times as well.
The Brazilian was snapped up by FC Pune City earlier this year and will look to continue his amazing form for Pune, who will need some inspiration from the magician to turnaround their fortunes this season.
3. Robbie Keane(ATK)
ATK stunned many football fans around the globe when they announced Robbie Keane as a part of their team for the upcoming season of the ISL, something which could be monumental for the club and country alike. Keane is a renowned around the world for his stints at Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs a few years ago, with the striker now aiming to make his mark in Indian football.
Keane’s amazing eye for goal, movement, and all-around ability makes him a real asset for ATK, who will look to reclaim their title this season. Keane may be a nightmare for opposition defenders, but we can expect many moments of brilliance from this legend who is still going strong and will look to prove so this season.
2. Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
Sunil Chhetri had a season to forget for Mumbai last season, as he failed to score in his six appearances for the club after a hectic period at Bengaluru FC before that. But, now that the club he loves is part of the ISL, he will hope to turn a new leaf and play with much more determination than he has done in the last two seasons in the ISL.
The captain of Bengaluru FC has been key to their success over the years and captain fantastic as well. He’s currently the much-deserved face of Indian football, with his impeccable goalscoring record and hunger to make his team win standing out in the past few years. Bengaluru FC will find a new challenge in their debut ISL season, but with someone like Chhetri leading them, they’ll probably start with a bang.
1. Dimitar Berbatov (Kerala Blasters FC)
The Bulgarian magician will look to lead Kerala Blasters to ISL glory
Dimitar Berbatov is a name which is recognized all around the world because of his impeccable work at Manchester United many years ago, with the Bulgarian attaining a lot of popularity as a Red Devil. Berbatov followed Rene Meulensteen to Kerala Blasters FC, who after a disappointing loss in the ISL final last season showed how they truly meant business.
The striker will be the crown jewel in what is a very strong team for the Blasters and the former United man will definitely want to display his magic on the pitch. His impeccable technique, skill, and eye for goal makes him a nightmare for any opposition and Berbatov will look to wow the Indian fans with his stunning gameplay and lead Blasters to ISL glory this season.