The 2020-’21 season of the Indian Super League will kick off today , at 7:30PM , when Kerala Blasters “host” ATK Mohun Bagan FC at the Goa Medical College Stadium , Bambolim . After the I-League qualifiers marked the return of football to India since the coronavirus pandemic started , the ISL will now make its comeback after a hiatus of more than 8 months .
The person at helm of ATKMB is none other than Antonio Lopez Habas , who has led ATK FC to two titles in the franchise based league . The passionate manager will now be in charge of the Green and Maroons in what will be the side’s debut season in the competition .
On the other hand , last season’s I-League winning coach Jose Antonio Vicuna will be in charge of Kerala Blasters , hoping to turn around the fortunes of a side that has underperformed over the last 3 seasons despite having a lot of potential . The opening game will also be a test for Vicuna as he has had a considerably shorter preparation period than his counterpart .
HEAD TO HEAD
This will be the be 1st time the amalgated entity of ATK Mohun Bagan take the field . So while the head to head record is not available , we can consider the duels between ATK and Kerala Blasters , since ATKMB have managed to retain ATK’s core side from last season .
Total Matches – 14
ATK won – 5
KBFC won – 4
Draws – 5
However , Kerala have managed to win their last 4 encounters against the Kolkata side , with the winning run going back 2 years .
The Kolkata giants have arguably had the best preparations leading up to the league . They were the 1st to start pre season (in early October) and also the earliest to have their head coach take charge . They have been training with a full squad for more than 2 weeks now and although there are a few injuries in the camp (like Joby Justin) , the Mariners will certainly go in the game as the better prepared side .
Blasters on the other hand have had a somewhat difficult pre season with Kibu getting his full squad only 3 days prior to the first game . Players like Gary Hooper and Bakary Kone have had less than 2 weeks to prepare while Jordan Murray and Facundo Perreira joined training 3 days back .
WHAT TO EXPECT
While ATK Mohun Bagan have their arsenal all sortef with Krishna and Williams upfront , Kerala Blasters will also hope that Celtic legend Gary Hooper comes good on the day . Kerala have one of the best defenses on paper with the experienced duo of Costa N and Bakary Kone while ATKMB will be led by ISL stalwart Tiri and India number one Sandesh Jhingan . However there are a few concerns for the Kolkata side as all of Mchugh , Jhingan and Tiri will be returning from nearly season long injuries . The likes of Jessel Carneiro , Nongdomba Naorem , Prabir Das and Michael Soosairaj will be having their own battle on the flanks while Javi Hernandez , Edu Garcia , Vincente Gomez , Facundo Perreira will be looking to assert midfield dominance .
Overall , we have a cracking contest on cards , but ATK Mohun Bagan go in as clear favourites .