The southerners are expected to provide a tough fight to their Spanish and Australian counterparts.
The Toyota Yaris La Liga World tournament is the first time, international clubs from Australia and Spain are coming to India for a series of pre-season clashes with hosts Kerala Blasters. Kerala is a football-crazy state and the clubs could not have chosen a better venue for the three-way tournament.
Kerala Blasters have given themselves a huge opportunity to start their season on a good note and will have to use this experience to the fullest.
The tournament is the first of its kind to be organized in India
About The Tournament
The tournament could open the doors for more and more international clubs to look at India as a pre-season destination. The Blasters have started a trend here and will look to give their best against prestigious opposition in Girona FC and Melbourne City.
Since the tournament is taking place in Kerala, the Blasters are assured of the support of their faithful and they will surely turn out in huge numbers as the Kochi crowd never seems to disappoint. The team will be geared up and ready to go come the event, as it could act as a measuring scale to see where David James’ men and Indian football in general, stand in relation to global standards.
Last Seasons’ Performance
The southerners did not have a very memorable season in the fourth edition of the Indian Super League. They finished sixth and looked underwhelming through large parts of the campaign. The Blasters failed to create any kind of lasting impression on the fans. James’ men made it to the Round of 16 stage in the Super Cup and were knocked out by NEROCA FC. Kerala would love to get off on the front foot right from their pre-season itself and this tournament presents them with that opportunity.
About The Team
The tournament has all the potential to be an absolute cracker in terms of the quality of football that will be on display. Kerala Blasters will have to massively up their game if they are to stand a chance to compete against some of the big sides in international football. Moreover, they will be without their talisman, lain Hume this season but their defensive line-up is extremely strong as they have roped in the national side’s first-choice centre-backs in Sandhesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika.
David James, the coach of the Blasters, will be looking to fully employ his tactics after having taken over in the middle of last season. This tournament also presents a big opportunity for all the budding talents and the seasoned players to get minutes on the pitch before the league campaign gets going.
The Blasters will be an extremely solid defensive unit going by how their squad has been built. James deployed a variation of the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 through his time at the club last term and it produced mixed results. The Englishman would like to mould the new squad into this formation and make them a force to be reckoned with going forward.
Kerala Blasters pre-season squad
Players to watch
The 26-year-old Slovenian forward is a much-needed value addition to the Blasters attack. Matej is coming off a great season for his previous club NK Triglav Kranj in his native, having scored 16 goals in 34 games in the country’s top tier. Matej was a regular starter for his club and he is a welcome addition to this squad as they look to improve upon a poor last season.
The most important cog in the wheel that is the Blasters defence, Sandesh Jhingan has been a powerhouse in the southerners’ backline. Facing the attacking prowess of Girona and Melbourne City will be a great test for the player as well as for his partnership with new signing Edathodika. Blasters are expected to be defending for most of their games and these fixtures will be a good sparring match for the captain.
The 24-year-old winge had quite an underwhelming season for the Highlanders. Narzary completed a move to the Blasters for the 2018-19 campaign and will be raring to go for the Yellows of Kerala. Narzary has always been rated by his national team manager for his work-rate and the attacking potential that he possesses. Could James be the right man to unlock his talent at club level? The upcpming season will provide the answer.
What to Expect
Kerala Blasters will be facing a challenge against both the sides and it is a kind of challenge that the club have not faced before. Both the sides bring with them tons of quality and flair and this will be a huge learning curve for the Blasters. However, they are very much capable of putting up a good defensive performance in both the fixtures and maybe producing an upset or two on home turf.
These games can go a long way in assessing how you want to set your team up for the Indian Super League and should the Blasters win a match, it will most likely be against A-League side Melbourne City.