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ISL Gameweek 1 Preview: Traditional rivals set to clash as new season kicks-off

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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The first two games of the new campaign pit giants ATK and Kerala Blasters against each other while Bengaluru Chennaiyin look for early statement of intent.

The Indian Super League (ISL) returns with its fifth season on Saturday, in what is expected to be a different, but a highly-competitive campaign. The football extravaganza sees a revamped schedule this term, one which includes three international breaks. The first week of the league is itself filled with some mouthwatering fixtures, including a South Indian Derby and a repeat of two ISL finals. So, without further ado, here’s our preview for the opening gameweek of ISL 5.

ATK Vs Kerala Blasters

Date & Venue: 29th September/ Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

Sandesh Jhingan could slot in at right-back for Kerala Blasters

For ATK, this season will be all about redemption. After having a horrible campaign which was riddled with issues last time out, they have wiped the slate clean ahead of the new term. The Kolkata-based side will want to start life under Steve Coppell with a win, which can bring back their fans’ lost hope.

For Kerala Blasters, things look a bit topsy-turvy this season. But, with a confident David James at their helm, The Yellow Army will be aiming for the top. The Blasters can silence their critics with an away win to open the season with a blast and put an end to their pre-season blues.



Watch: ATK 2-2 Kerala Blasters

ATK have faced Kerala Blasters 10 times so far in the ISL. The Kolkata side have won four games, while Kerala have only won one. The two sides have drawn five so far and will continue their rivalry on Saturday.

ATK are expected to play a 4-2-3-1 formation this season, with their newly-knit squad. They have a proper midfield this time around and an experienced defensive unit. Also, they have an experienced attack, which has the reputation of scoring frequently in the ISL. Manuel Lanzarote and Kalu Uche will look to cause problems upfront, while defensive general John Johnson and Andre Bikey keep their defence squeaky clean.

Both the sides are expected to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation

Similarly, Kerala Blasters will also operate in a traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. The lack of a proper right-back at the beginning of the season will be their biggest worry, but their defensive strength should make up for that. The Yellow Army will rely heavily on their European talent and hope their Indian core can blend in well with them. The Blasters will look to play effective, counter-attacking football, which can continue to give them points throughout.  

For ATK, all eyes will be on newcomer and captain Lanzarote in the opener. The winger was excellent for FC Goa last season, scoring 13 goals and assisting six. With a lot of freedom in attack, he will need to be instrumental in creating magic for ATK this campaign.

Slavisa Stojanovic will be one to watch out for Kerala in their opening game. The Serbian scored 10 goals in 31 appearances for his former club Radnicki Nis last season and will look to use his physical prowess and movement to cause all sorts of problems for ATK’s newound defence.

Bengaluru FC Vs Chennaiyin FC

Date & Venue: 30th September, Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

Jeje will lead the Marina Machans' frontline and is expected to create a lot of trouble for the Bengaluru defenders

In what is a repeat of the ISL final from last season, Bengaluru FC will be gunning for revenge. The Blues were cruelly handed a defeat at the final hurdle, but will look to use that experience to serve a cold dish of vengeance to their southern rivals to open their account brightly. Chennaiyin FC, on the other hand, themselves have a lot to prove as defending champions. The Marina Machans will look to continue their great form at the Kanteerava by starting their title title defence with a compelling victory.  

Watch: Bengaluru 1-3 Chennaiyin

Bengaluru and Chennaiyin might’ve only faced off three times so far, but all their matches have been instant classics. The defending champions won two games, while Bengaluru won only one last time out.

The Blues will also persist with a 4-2-3-1 formation this season and have impressively retained much of their core from the last campaign. Sunil Chhetri, Miku, and Udanta Singh will continue being important members of their attack, while their midfield has been boosted by newcomer Xisco. They will also keep their possession-based, fluid style of football and will aim to achieve more consistency in performances and results.

Bengaluru will go with two defensive midfielders, meanwhile Chennaiyin are expected to go with a youthful midfield led by Thapa

Chennaiyin FC will play with a 4-4-1-1 formation this season. John Gregory has retained his foreigner-heavy defence, while their attack is filled with bright Indian talents. Jeje Lalpekhlua will lead the charge for them. But, the likes of Anirudh Thapa, Raphael Augusto, and Gregory Nelson will provide enough firepower and creativity.

Captain Sunil Chhetri will be the one with all the spotlight on him in Bengaluru’s opening game and for good reason. Chhetri scored 14 goals for his side last season and is seemingly aging like fine wine, as he’ll be pivotal to the Blues' success once again.

Raphael Augusto caused a lot of problems for Bengaluru FC last season. He’s become a highly-experienced customer in the ISL and will look to use that to his advantage.


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NorthEast United FC Vs FC Goa

Date  & Venue: 1st October, Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

Rowlin Borges is expected to play right ahead of his side's backline and will look to protect them

NorthEast United will look to wipe the slate clean and start their season positively with a win. An exciting performance can help the Highlanders regain the support of their long-lost fans and they will aim to do just that. FC Goa, on the other hand, seem to be a well-oiled machine under Sergio Lobera. The Gaurs earned the reputation for playing dazzling football last season and will look to pick up from where they left off to start their campaign with three points.

NorthEast United and Goa’s matches have normally been quite end-to-end. In eight matches, Goa have won three times and NorthEast twice, while their three draws in the past have also been entertaining affairs.

NorthEast United will mostly be fielding a 4-2-3-1 formation this season with their new set of players. The Highlanders have setup a pretty attack-minded team and roped in some very clever players like Nikhil Kadam, Redeem Tiang, along with a lethal striker in Bartholomew Ogbeche, who will enable them to play smooth, effective football.

The Highlanders will go with one defensive midfielder, with the Gaurs playing Jahouh and Bedia in that role

FC Goa will also play a 4-2-3-1 formation and despite losing Lanzarote, they have a really dangerous trio of Indian attackers. Striker Ferran Corominas will always be there to pounce on chances. The Gaurs will hope their troika of domestic stars in the final third can create a great understanding and enable them to play some exciting football like last campaign.

Watch: Northeast United 2-1 FC Goa

For NorthEast United, striker Ogbeche will be the one everyone will have their eyes on. The former PSG striker has the knack of using his strength and pace to his advantage to become a clinical goalscorer whereever he plays.

Corominas will look to pick up from where he left off last season for Goa. Coro scored 18 goals and his dangerous movement and incredible eye for goal has turned him into a striker nobody has been able to decrypt yet in Indian football.


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Mumbai City FC Vs Jamshedpur FC

Date & Venue: 2nd October, Mumbai Football Arena, Mumbai.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

Indian international Subhashish Bose will be expected to dominate the left flank from his defensive position

Mumbai Cityseem to be a force to be reckoned with under Jorge Costa. The new coach has churned up an impressive unit, who will look to light up the Mumbai Football Arena in their opening match. Jamshedpur FC are assured to play a much more positive, attacking brand of football, with their youthful side that should help them start their campaign brightly. 

The Men of Steel won one game out of the two these teams played last season, with the other one ending up in a stalemate. As such, Mumbai will look to get one back and exact revenge for their home loss.

The Islanders will be playing a 4-3-3 formation under Costa. Their two foreign signings Rafael Bastos and Modou Sougou have impressed in pre-season and will be vital to their attacking game. The franchise finally seem to have stitched together a balanced unit, who will be attacking through the wings and will look to use their pace upfront.

The Islanders are predicted to go with a 4-3-3 formation, while the Men of Steel will go with a 4-2-3-1 shape

Jamshedpur might not have Tim Cahill, but still, have enough firepower up top. With TFA academy graduates Farukh Choudhary and Sumeet Passi, they also have other promising youngsters in Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Michael Soosairaj. Not only are they defensively strong, but Jamshedpur look much more lethal in attack as well. 

Watch: Mumbai City FC 1-2 Jamshedpur FC

Sougou will be the man to watch for Mumbai City in their opener, mostly because of his reputation coming into the game. He has scored many goals in pre-season and will look to provide fireworks for the Islanders from the word go.

Mawhmingthanga should thrive under new coach Cesar Ferrando this season, knowing the the Spaniard's liking for attacking football. The winger will be given more freedom to roam around and cause destruction with his clever knack for scoring goals.


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Delhi Dynamos Vs FC Pune City.

Date & Venue: 03rd October, Jawahalal Nehru Stadium, Delhi.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

21-year old Chhangte could be the capital club's star man this season

Delhi Dynamos have put their disastrous campaign of last season into the past and Spanish coach Josep Gombau has a lot on his plate. The Dynamos will need to start their journey positively to regain the supporters' trust again and Gombau will need to back up his comments of making the Lions play beautiful football, with results on the pitch. FC Pune City impressed everyone by going a long way last season, but will aim to do one better this time around. They’ve retained a powerful squad, which has the right blend of steel and flair to help them start their season on a positive note.

Delhi hold the edge in their head-to-head record against Pune City, having won four out of the eight games they’ve played. Pune have only won one and will look to improve that stat on Wednesday.

The Lions will play a 4-2-3-1 formation under the new regime of Gombau. Marcos Tebar, Marti Crespi and Andrija Kaluderovic will be pivotal in their different roles. Delhi can be expected to play more fluid, possession-based football and with Romeo Fernandes and Lallianzuala Chhangte on the flanks, they could be a nightmare for any defence.

Both the sides are expected to go with a four-man defence

With former Dynamos coach Miguel Angel Portugal at the helm, Pune City can be expected to play a more passing-oriented game. The Stallions could lineup with a 4-3-3 formation and will look to retain possession and play their way into scoring goals, which if perfected, could make them daunting opposition for many.

Watch: Delhi Dynamos 2 - 2 FC Pune City

New striker Kaluderovic will be one to keep an eye on for Delhi this season. The Serbian forward proved himself as a potent goalscorer in New Zealand last season. He will look to use his physical presence to bully defenders and feast upon the crosses from his impressive wingers.

Marcelinho weaved his magic for Pune last season and will be instrumental to their success this time as well. His clever movement, impeccable ability on the ball and eye for goal makes him a threat for any side. 

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Published: Fri Sep 28, 2018 08:48 PM IST

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