Derby Delight in Hero ISL 2017-18
Come November 17, and the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) returns and with it, we can expect more adrenaline-pumping action on the pitch as well as the stands. With the addition of two new teams in the form of Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC, the stakes have never been higher for the players and fans alike. With the inclusion of these new teams, another facet the league brings is the emergence of fresh and never-before-seen rivalries. Derbies can often alter the course of a season for teams in search of impetus when in a rut. Last year witnessed Kerala beating defending champions (at the time) Chennai to gather the momentum that propelled them into the final. This year too will see several derbies where points and pride will be up for grabs to go along with those time-served battles of the past. Here, we have a look at the local derbies set to take centrestage in the 2017-18 season.
SOUTH INDIAN DERBIES:
The ISL has seen its fair share of southern derbies over the past three years with Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters FC being the star cast. Both are highly successful teams in their own right taking into account that Chennai were champions in 2015 and Kerala have been runners-up twice. Clashes between these two teams are generally characterised by drama, intrigue and an electric atmosphere. Who can forget the semi-finals of the inaugural edition when these two sides met? Kerala took a 3-0 aggregate lead from the first leg only to be pegged back by Chennai in the second leg, where they put three past the men in yellow by the end of normal time.
Only a Stephen Pearson winner in extra time secured Kerala’s place in the ISL final in a match which featured red cards, own goals, and an injury-time aggregate equaliser. The following season saw Chennai have the final say as they clinched title glory; however, last year witnessed Kerala get the better of Chennaiyin in a tight and tense affair thanks to local boy CK Vineeth, who netted twice in the final 10 minutes to send the home crowd into raptures.
This season will further stir the pot with the introduction of Bengaluru FC, who are the third southern team in the league. Renowned for their passionate supporters, the West Block Blues, who are never shy of letting their voices be heard, their match against Kerala will especially be interesting considering former Bengaluru winger Vineeth will be turning out for Kerala. The Blues take on the yellow army on New Year’s eve and needless to say the banter has already begun if Kerala’s Twitter account is anything to go by.
While ATK and NorthEast United FC made up India’s eastern representation in the ISL over the past three years, the addition of Jamshedpur FC this year sees the emergence of another heavyweight from the region. Jamshedpur will be coached by former Kerala Blasters head coach Steve Coppell, who is no stranger to derbies in the league having overseen Kerala’s thrilling triumph over Chennai last year. The Englishman though will have his task cut out against the Highlanders, who will be backed by their zealous fans.
Coppell’s men will kick-start their campaign against NorthEast at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. Not exactly an easy way to ease themselves into the league, however, the 62-year-old has seen it all before and will ensure that the Hero ISL debutants aren’t overawed by the magnitude of the occasion. They will, in fact, have to get used to playing games of such stature considering their other eastern rivals ATK will be hosting their matches at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata, which is known to be one of the most intimidating stadiums in the world. Add to that a hostile crowd eager to claim bragging rights and it’s safe to say that Jamshedpur’s initiation to the league won’t be an easy one.
The Maharashtra or “Maha” derby has given us its fair share of memorable moments in years gone by. In fact, the first ever encounter between Mumbai City FC and FC Pune City ended in a 5-0 annihilation of the Stallions by their neighbours. That said, no side has really dominated this fixture in the past as Pune’s 2-0 win in their home match of the inaugural edition goes to show. Last season saw both teams win 1-0 away from home, while Hero ISL 2015 witnessed Pune beat Mumbai 3-1 at home and draw 0-0 away.
Mumbai though can claim they have a more successful history in the league considering they were the first side from Maharashtra to make it to the semis last year. Pune, on the other hand, are still in search of their maiden semi-final appearance, which is something they’ll want to put right this time around. We won’t have to wait very long for the first Maha derby of the season either with the two teams slated to take on each other in Pune on November 29 before their second meeting in Mumbai on February 11.
For the complete Hero ISL 2017-18 fixtures, click here.