Both teams will look to kick-start pre-season preparations with a win in the showpiece event.
With the summer’s bout of international tournaments done and dusted, the fans of the Indian game gear up to watch the country’s best sides battle it out to be crowned the ISL champions. In what is a major coup for Indian football, the subcontinent will host the Toyota Yaris La Liga World tournament, that will feature La Liga side Girona FC, A-League outfit Melbourne City and hosts Kerala Blasters.
KBFC will face Melbourne City FC on Tuesday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, in the event’s opening clash, with both sides having announced the squads that will be taking part in the tournament.
Kerala Blasters, in their short life span, have come a long way as one of the most well-supported sides in the subcontinent and indeed in Asia. The Blasters have reached two of the four ISL finals so far and have some of Indian football’s biggest stars like Sandesh Jhingan and Holicharan Narzary in their ranks.
The hosts’ goalkeeper Sujith Sasikumar has picked up an injury and will not be a part of the team against Melbourne on Tuesday. Along with Sujith, ace forward CK Vineeth has also picked up a jaw injury. However, he is expected to play a part against the Australians. The rest of the squad is injury-free and that will come as welcome relief for manager David James, as he picks his squad against the City Football Group-owned side.
On the other hand, Melbourne City are without any injuries and manager Warren Joyce will look to field his strongest XI in the tournament opener.
The duo of Dario Vidosic and Bruno Furnaroli will be their side’s premier attacking outlets.
David James (Kerala Blasters)
The interaction started with James being asked about pre-season training, his idea of his squad and his opinion on the upcoming tournament.
James answered, “That’s a very good question. You’ve got a group of players and staff that wants to win everything. We’re up against Melbourne City – one of the best sides in the A-league and Girona FC – one of the better teams in La Liga. We’ve to be realistic in one sense and we’re not sure how good we are.”
James also revealed that teenage sensation Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem will be guarding the bars for the Blasters against Melbourne City.
“Dheeraj will start the game tomorrow,” James set the record straight. The manager also informed that local talent Sujith Sasikumar is injured and Naveen Kumar will vie the goalkeeping spot with Dheeraj. “There are a lot of expectations from Dheeraj, understandably. He’s been fantastic and we hope he does well tomorrow.”
While making clear his aim on the pre-season tour of India Joyce answered, “I think teams from all around the world try to help their players get back to full fitness in pre-season. They want the new players to settle in, gel well and experiment with new formations and ideas. We’ve got Girona and Kerala and we’re expecting two good football games here. We’re expecting a lot from (Daniel) Arzani in the A-league.”
The former Manchester United Reserves manager also revealed that his side will be experimenting in the tournament.
“I think it’s early for both teams and thus, we’ll like to try out new combinations, young players. It’s always a good opportunity to play so early in the season and it looks like a level playing field for both sides. The four new faces will certainly be happy with some game time,” he said.
The match will be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi which has a capacity of 60,000, making it the fourth largest stadium in India.
Both teams have announced their squads for the tournament and will look to give as many of their players minutes on the pitch as they possibly can, in preparation for the upcoming season.
Dheeraj Singh, Lalruatthara, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Cyril Kali, Prashant K, Rawat, Kizito, Pekuson, Narzary, Poplatnik
Head Coach: David James
Bouzanis, Jameison, Delbridge, Graham, Atkinson, Metcalfe, Brattan, Vidosic, Caceres, Fornaroli, Iannuci.
Manager: Warren Joyce
What to Expect
This will be the first game of both clubs’ respective pre-seasons, so it would not be too harsh to expect a little bit of rustiness from both sides. Both managers will look to give their players a chance to prove themselves before their new campaign begins in earnest.