Kerala and Kolkata lock horns in ISL showpiece
The Blasters seek their maiden crown in the tournament…
Kerala Blasters will take on Atletico de Kolkata in the Final of the Indian Super League to be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday.
Champions in the tournament’s inaugural edition in 2014 Atletico de Kolkata are looking for their second title in three seasons, Meanwhile, for hosts Kerala Blasters this will be their maiden triumph. These two met in the showpiece three years ago with ATK emerging narrow 1-0 winners thanks to Mohammed Rafique’s late goal. Interestingly, the striker will dawn the yellow of Kerala this time around.
ATK made the finale thanks to a 3-2 aggregate win over league toppers Mumbai City FC, while Blasters edged out hotspots Delhi Dynamos in a dramatic penalty shootout after a 2-2 stalemate on aggregate. Kolkata achieved the feat of qualifying for the playoffs with the least number of wins (4), while Blasters endured a retched first half of the campaign, before a spectacular return to form at the backend of the season.
Left-Back Josue Prieto is suspended for this one after having picked up two bookings in the playoffs. Everyone else is fit and available for the Blasters.
The visors will miss Robert Lalthlamuana and Juan Belencoso who are both suspended. The rest will be in play to be part of the action.
Kolkata hold the edge in the encounters between these two teams with four wins to Kerala’s one, while two other games have ended in draws. ATK are the only team to beat Kerala in Kochi this season with a 1-0 win earlier in the campaign, while the reverse fixture finished in a 1-1 stalemate.
Man to Watch
CK Vineeth-Kerala Blasters: The striker may have missed the first half of the season thanks to AFC Cup duty with Bengaluru FC. However, with five goals from eight games upon his return the forward has been the catalyst for Blasters’ revival this season. His pace, ability to run with the ball and clinical finishing will all be vital to give Kerala an edge in the big moments against a seasoned ATK.
Iain Hume-Atletico de Kolkata: The top scorer in the history of the ISL with 23 goals Iain Hume took time to fire this season, but the Canadian has peaked with vital contributions in the second half of the campaign. The striker proved his value to the team with a crucial brace in the playoffs against the Islanders. Hume was part of the Blasters team that lost in the Final against ATK in 2014, but this time he will look to lead the Kolkata giants to their second title.
Kerala Blasters (4-4-1-1): Nandy, Jhingan, Hughes, Hengbart, Kadio, Mehtab, Nazon, Mahamat, Vineeth, Belfort, Rafi.
Atletico De Kolkata (4-2-3-1): Majumdar, Prabir, Tiri, Sereno, Pritam, Borja, Pearson,Ruidas, Doutie, Lalrindika, Hume.
The match will be telecast live on Star Sports 1, Star Sports HD1, Star Gold, Star Gold HD, Jalsha Movies, Jalsha Movies HD, and Hotstar. You can also follow live commentary on Khel Now website by our ISL correspondent.
Photo Courtesy: ISL Media
Preview by Khel Now-Content Editor Mrunal Nakashe. A sports buff, he's also a foreign policy enthusiast and keen North Korea watcher. Mrunal loves gaming, reading, traveling and is a self-confessed Football Manager addict.
Published: Sat Dec 17, 2016 05:22 PM IST