Everything you need to know about Hero ISL 2019-20

The countdown to Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 has officially begun with the full fixture list having been announced on Friday. The competition kickstarts on October 20, 2019, with a titanic clash between two-time champions ATK and arch-rivals Kerala Blasters FC with the latter playing hosts.

With just under two months to go till India's premier football tournament takes centre stage again, here's everything you need to know about Hero ISL 2019-20.

Eighteen uniform rounds

The fixtures are divided into 18 rounds, with each consisting of five matchdays each. During the course of each round, each of the 10 teams will be in action once, providing fans with the opportunity to watch their favourite teams take the field at regular intervals.

Kick off timings and semi-finalists

Every matchday will consist of a single match, which, like last season, kicks off at 7:30 PM. After the completion of the 18 rounds of the league phase, each team will have played a total of 18 matches - 1 home and 1 away against each of the nine other teams in the competition. The four top teams will progress to the semi-final stage for an opportunity to feature in the Hero ISL 2019-20 final and vie for the title. The fixtures for the semis and the final will be announced at a later date.

Busy start with non-stop action

The first three rounds of Hero ISL 2019-20 will have no breaks between them and will treat fans with 15 back-to-back matches from October 20 to November 3. While the regular matchdays will help the teams get into rhythm early in the competition, the busy fixture list will also be a challenge for the sides as their respective squad depths and fitness levels will be tested to the fullest.

International break with the Blue Tigers taking centre stage

A two-day breather divides round three and round four, post which the first and only international break of Hero ISL 2019-20 will kick in from November 11 to November 22. The football fever, however, will continue as the Indian national team are scheduled to play two FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers matches during the period. The Blue Tigers will be on the road to face Afghanistan on November 14 followed by a tryst with the mighty Oman five days later. The Hero ISL action will resume from November 23 with ten back-to-back matches, following which the subsequent rounds will have brief breaks separating them.

An intriguing title defence

Bengaluru FC will go into the tournament as the defending champions, having lifted the trophy last term. The Blues' triumph was a significant one in the larger context, considering they became the first team to break ATK and Chennaiyin FC's stranglehold on the title. The above two teams shared the top honours in the first four seasons of Hero ISL, winning it twice each in alternate seasons. Additionally, no team in the history of Hero ISL history has successfully retained the trophy and Carles Cuadrat's men will be eager to curb the trend this campaign. With their opponents having strengthened significantly since last season, Bengaluru's title defence, which begins on October 21 with a home tie against NorthEast United FC, will be an interesting watch.

You can check out the full Hero ISL 2019-20 fixtures here.

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