On 20th of November, on the day of the opener, Kerala Blasters FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, the purported El Clásico of the ISL, are set to lock horns with each other. These teams have a rich history going against each other since the ISL campaign started from the year 2014.
The home side and two time runners-up, Kerala Blasters FC, will be led by Kibu Vicuña and he will be going against the side he led to victory last season that merged with ATK to form ATK Mohun Bagan. Kerala Blasters are one of the strongest teams on paper this season with the raining of some big signings and a complete revamp of the squad.
The away side, the newly merged and 3 time champions ATK Mohun Bagan will be led by Antonio Habas in this season of ISL 2020-21. Of the three, Habas led the side to glory two times and it will be exciting to see them perform this year. Purportedly the most stable, balanced and consistent side, ATK Mohun Bagan, will definitely look to notch a win in the ISL opener this season to hit it off for their 4th championship run in this season ahead.
3 INDIAN PLAYERS AND 3 FOREIGN PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR FROM KERALA BLASTERS FC
Now talking about the players to look out for from each team, let’s start with Kerala Blasters FC first.
The three Indian players to look out for will be Sahal Abdul Samad, Rahul KP and Nishu Kumar. Sahal’s most awaited comeback, Rahul’s exciting performance in preseason and Nishu’s triggering transfer from Bengaluru FC to Kerala Blasters FC is everything everyone will be exhilarated about.
The three foreigners to be looked out for are Vicente Gómez, Gary Hooper, and Costa Nhamoinesu. Although Facundo Pereyra may not play the first match, he is one versatile player to look out for.
3 INDIAN PLAYERS AND 3 FOREIGN PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR FROM ATK MOHUN BAGAN
On the other hand, ATK Mohun Bagan have a baggage of experience with Michael Soosairaj, Prabir Das and Sandesh Jhingan. Michael Soosairaj and Prabir Das were exceptionally good wingbacks who stood out throughout the previous season. Sandesh Jhingan, having plied his trade at Kerala Blasters FC for 6 long seasons and an ACL injury in the previous season, will undoubtedly be a sure player to look out for this season as his transfer from Kerala to their rival club from Kolkata had also sparked a lot of talks during this transfer season.
Speaking about the 3 foreigners to look out for, Roy Krishna, the top scorer of the previous season, will look to keep up with the said designation and continue to look to nurture his partnership with David Williams. Tiri, a players who has been at the ISL for 5 long seasons has gone back to his former club and his partnership with Sandesh Jhingan must be one exhilarating performance to look out for.
Sandesh Jhingan is returning from an ACL injury and it is widely known how bad an ACL injury can be for a footballer. It will be exciting to see how Jhingan will hit the season with an aim to bring glory to ATK Mohun Bagan.
And apparently for Kerala Blasters, reports say that Nishu Kumar is sustaining an injury, however the extent of the injury is unknown and he might be fit for the match. Gary Hooper and Bakary Koné are also returning from injuries. However, even though Facundo Pereyra may not start for the opener against ATK-MB as the player’s quarantine only got over on the 17th, he is also said to be returning from an injury.
EXPECTED LINE-UP OF KERALA BLASTERS FC
Albino Gomes (GK), Jessel Carneiro (LB), Costa Nhamoinesu (LCB), Bakary Koné (RCB), Nishu Kumar (RB), Vicente Gómez (LDM), Jeakson Singh (RDM), Nongdamba Naorem (LW), Sergio Cidoncha (CAM), Rahul KP (RW), Gary Hooper (ST)
Substitutes – Sahal Abdul, Facundo Pereyra, Abdul Hakku, Bilal Khan, Jordan Murray, Rohit Kumar, Prasanth K
EXPECTED LINE-UP OF ATK MOHUN BAGAN
Arindam Bhattacharya (GK), Subhashish Bose (LCB), Tiri (CB), Sandesh Jhingan (RCB), Michael Soosairaj (LWB), Carl McHugh (LCM), Javi Hernandez (CAM), Jayesh Rane (RCM), Prabir Das (RWB), Roy Krishna (LS), David Williams (RS)
Substitutes – Pritam Kotal, Dheeraj Singh, Edu Garcia, Pronay Halder, Brad Inman, Salam Ranjan Singh, Sumit Rathi.
HEAD TO HEAD
14 matches played head to head
(Won) KBFC 4 – 5 ATK
(Lost) KBFC 5 – 4 ATK
(Tied) KBFC 5 – 5 ATK
(Goals Scored) KBFC 16 – 15 ATK
In the last 5 head to heads, KBFC won 3 whereas the other 2 were tied.
On paper, Kerala Blasters FC looks the stronger side and they do not have a history of losing against ATK in any of the ISL openers but they’re a newer team with new players and staffs, and ATK Mohun Bagan is a team with high level of consistency and more players with previous experience of playing in the ISL and under Indian conditions. ATK were the champions with almost the same set of contingent.
Hence, albeit the Kerala based club has stronger names on paper, a smidgen of a chance is higher for ATK Mohun Bagan.
We’re predicting an away win on the opener of the ISL 2020-21.