The hosts will seek to avenge their loss in last season’s finale.
The 4th edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) is all set to kick off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi on Friday. The opener will see Kerala Blasters take on ATK in a re-match of the final of the last edition, with the Blasters aiming to exact revenge for their loss in the showpiece against the defending champions. ATK will themselves look to start on a positive note under new manager Teddy Sheringham, who will look to assert his dominance early on in the league.
It will be a battle between arguably two of the best teams in the ISL this season and is assured to be a rather personal one as well knowing the history between the two teams. The Blasters will look to put on a spectacle in front of their ardent supporters, with Rene Meulensteen’s star-studded squad aiming to thwart the defending champions in the opening match. It will be a battle between two heavyweights in Indian football right now and will be a cracking way to kickoff the brand new season.
Blasters had a rather good showcase in the ISL draft earlier this year, picking up some talented home-grown players in the likes of Arata Izumi, Milan Singh and Jackichand Singh in the process. But, they really picked up the pace with their blockbuster international signings, bringing in the likes of Wes Brown and Dimitar Berbatov to God’s own country. The Blasters also snapped up ISL regular Iain Hume, establishing themselves as a big threat in attack and building a formidable squad. The big players should all get a showing against ATK, with fans anticipating the debut of Berbatov in particular because of his amazing pedigree.
ATK went through a lot of changes in the summer, with their partnership with Atletico Madrid ending for questionable reasons and the change in the club’s name being confirmed as well. They brought in English manager Teddy Sheringham, also making former Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood their Technical Director to help with his work.
They had a successful showing in the ISL draft, as the pulling power of Sheringham enabled them to sign some terrific foreign talents like Robbie Keane, Tom Thorpe, and Jussi Jaaskelainen. However, Keane will miss the first few matches due to an injury picked up in pre-season training, but everyone else is available and raring to go.
ATK have had the upper hand over Kerala in head-to-head meetings over the years, with the Kolkata based franchise winning five of the eight matches between them so far. This includes the two victories enjoyed by ATK in the finals of ISL Season 1 and 3.
Man To Watch
Kerala Blasters-Dimitar Berbatov: The ISL fans were delighted when news of Dimitar Berbatov’s signing for Kerala Blasters was announced a few months ago, with the Blasters getting a real coup with the signature of the former Manchester United forward. The Bulgarian proved to be quite a majestic player in his playing days for the Red Devils, scoring some important goals and leaving fans awe-struck with his skills.
The 36-year-old still has a lot of football left in him and will look to leave fans astounded with his brilliant work. He’ll probably play in midfield because of his old legs and look to be at the creative front for Kerala. It’ll be a nightmare for defenders to contain this intelligent player. Berbatov will be key to The Blasters success this season and he’ll look to entertain the Blasters fans with a debut to remember on Friday.
ATK-Eugeneson Lyngdoh: Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s talent and fantastic work over the years was finally rewarded in the ISL draft when ATK snapped him up, making him one of the costliest players of the auction. Lyngdoh will play a key part in the center of midfield for ATK, as he’ll have to control play in the middle of the park for them and also try to be the creative output.
Lyngdoh’s fantastic set-piece delivery and distribution skills are already known, but he’ll also have to concentrate on breaking up play and stopping Kerala from getting the upper hand.
Kerala Blasters: Subhashish, Rino, Jhingan, Lakic-Pesic, Pritam, Brown, Milan Singh, Berbatov, Vineeth, Perkuson, Hume.
ATK: Majumder, Mehta, Thorpe, Augustin, Das, Thomas, Lyngdoh, Baker, Zequinha, Rane, Robin Singh.
The match will be broadcast live on Star Sports 1 and Stars Sports 1 HD. It will be also available for live streaming on Hotstar and you can also follow the live commentary on Khel Now.