The league is filled with many fascinating rivalries which are being enriched with fresh chapters every season.
Club rivalries have been an integral part of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) over the years. With passion and love for the sport increasing every season, the fight of becoming the Hero ISL champion have acquired much steam since 2014.
Some of the league’s most intense matches have been between local teams fighting it out for the tag of the best team in the region. A number of Hero ISL’s biggest stars have also made switches to rival teams, which have only served to stoke the fire of the existing rivalries.
With the 2018-19 campaign of the league commencing on September 29, we take a look at some of the most highly anticipated matches during the first half of the campaign.
A repeat of historic encounters
The very first fixture of the new season will feature a repeat of the 2014 and 2016 final. Two-time champions ATK will host Kerala Blasters at the Salt Lake Stadium. Owing to their meetings in the grandest stages, the two sides have developed a fierce rivalry, resulting in high-octane encounters.
Last season’s finalists, Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC will play the second match of the season at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. The two sides established themselves as the best teams in the league last year, with Chennaiyin ultimately going on to win the title after a 3-2 victory in the final against the Blues.
2015’s finalists Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa will meet on October 6 at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai. The duo has shared some fierce match-ups between themselves, with their most recent encounter taking place in the semi-finals last year, where Chennaiyin emerged victorious.
Local derbies to look forward to
The first meeting of the fiercely-contested Maha Derby between FC Pune City and Mumbai City FC will take place on October 19 at the Mumbai Football Arena. The Islanders will be on the lookout for redemption after Pune did the double over them last season.
The 2014 semi-final match-up between Chennaiyin and Kerala Blasters remains one of the most memorable ties in the league’s history. While last season’s matches between the two ties resulted in draws, we can again expect some high-quality action and pulsating drama when they meet on November 29.
NorthEast United FC will also be seen gearing up for action against neighbours ATK on October 4 at Kolkata, before welcoming them home on December 8. With both clubs signing onboard a number of big players, all eyes will be fixed on these clashes to find out who prevails in the battle of the East.
Return of big stars
Over the course of the summer transfer window, a number of Hero ISL’s most recognisable faces have shifted base. The league’s all-time top goalscorer Iain Hume parted ways with Kerala Blasters to join the likes of Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro at Pune. The Canadian forward will meet his former side on November 2 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune.
Manuel Lanzarote, who was one of the revelations of last season with FC Goa, has joined Steve Coppell and co. at ATK for the upcoming season. The Spaniard will face former team-mate Ferran Corominas and the rest of the Gaurs on November 28 in Kolkata.
ATK have made a host of high-profile signings over the window, including the capture of Kalu Uche, who had a pivotal role in Delhi Dynamos’ attack last season. The Nigerian forward will face his former side on October 17, when the two teams square off against each other in the Indian capital.
Anas Edathodika, one of the league’s most accomplished defenders, returns to his hometown of Kerala to represent the Blasters after he spent a year with Jamshedpur. Together with Sandesh Jhingan at the back, Edathodika will go up against a new look Jamshedpur side on October 29 at the JRD Tata Complex in Jamshedpur.