ISL 2023-24 key fixtures, October 2023: A month of homecomings, heated rivalries, and more
With the 10th season of the league beginning late September, ISL teams will hope to hit their stride in October and consolidate their place at the top half of the standings.
The month of October will be a busy one for Indian Super League (ISL) clubs. With the 10th season of the league beginning late September, ISL teams will hope to hit their stride in October and consolidate their place at the top half of the standings.
League fixtures will take place from October 1-8 before the league resumes on October 21 with a double header. Indian national team players will be in action during the international break with the Blue Tigers slated to play the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia.
While teams will be desperate to maintain their form and momentum despite the break, excitement will be at its peak for Indian football fans with plenty of mouth-watering fixtures on the cards, including the mighty Kolkata Derby.
Here are the standout fixtures to keep an eye on in October:
Bengaluru FC vs East Bengal FC (October 4, Wednesday, Bengaluru)
Bengaluru FC and East Bengal FC’s rivalry dates back to 2013, when the two clubs were part of the I-League. Both teams have won plenty of titles since then and have gone on to make their way into the ISL.
Ahead of the ISL 2022-23 season, East Bengal FC had not registered a single league win over the Blues in their past four meetings. However, the Kolkata side not only broke their duck last season, but also managed to do the double over Bengaluru FC.
But there will be more spice to this contest in this season with a homecoming for Carles Cuadrat. After serving as assistant coach during the 2016-17 season, the Spaniard was appointed head coach of the Blues. Cuadrat repaid the club’s faith by winning them the ISL Cup that season. He guided the Bengaluru FC to the playoffs again the following season. With the Sree Kanteerava Stadium known for its intimidating atmosphere, it remains to be seen how Cuadrat fares against his former club.
Jamshedpur FC vs Hyderabad FC (October 5, Thursday, Jamshedpur)
The JRD Tata Complex Stadium, also known as ‘The Furnace’ has always been a difficult venue for ISL teams to come and pick up points. It will be no different for Hyderabad FC, who will be welcomed by Jamshedpur FC in their first home game of the season.
Jamshedpur FC and Hyderabad FC beat each other once last season, but the victories came away from home. Going into the new season, both teams have made big changes to their squad apart from appointing new head coaches. While Jamshedpur FC’s Scott Cooper is relatively new to the league, Hyderabad FC head coach Thangboi Singto has been around for quite a long time. With two new head coaches aiming to outwit each other, fans could witness an exciting tactical battle.
Punjab FC vs NorthEast United FC (October 6, Friday, Delhi)
Newly-promoted Punjab FC will be aiming to make a statement in their first-ever ISL home game against NorthEast United FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi.
They were the team to beat in the I-League last season, but the ISL will be a different ball game for Staikos Vergetis’ side. They will fancy their chances against a new-look NorthEast United FC side, who have finished in the bottom half of the league in the past three seasons.
Apart from Punjab FC, the clash will also be of utmost importance for striker Jordan Gil. The Colombian was the leading goalscorer for NorthEast United FC and will have a point to prove against his former club.
FC Goa vs Odisha FC (October 7, Saturday, Goa)
The clash between two Spanish tacticians in Manolo Marquez and Sergio Lobera will make for an enticing clash. Both have achieved success during their time in India and made a name for themselves in Indian football.
In terms of philosophies, there is a lot in common between Marquez and Lobera, both in favour of attacking and possession-based football. The duo also are aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses having faced each other during the 2020-21 season. They have known each other since their time in Spain.
“He (Marquez) was working in Las Palmas, the same club I was with in the past. I know his style of play,” Lobera earlier said.
Lobera will be up against the home fans of his former team, FC Goa, for the first time since leaving the Gaurs in 2020. Odisha FC are yet to register a victory against FC Goa in the league and with Lobera at the helm, the Juggernauts will hope to break their hoodoo.
Mumbai City FC vs Kerala Blasters FC (October 8, Sunday, Mumbai)
The clash will pit two head coaches who have spent significant time with their clubs since heading to Indian shores in 2021.
Des Buckingham has already achieved success with Mumbai City FC, propelling the Islanders to the League Shield last season. Although Ivan Vukomanovic is yet to end Kerala Blasters FC’s wait for a silverware, he has led the club to two consecutive playoff finishes during his time with the Blasters - a first in their history. During the 2021-22 season, Kerala Blasters FC narrowly missed out on the ISL Cup after losing to Hyderabad FC in the tie-breaker.
Mumbai City FC did the double over the Blasters in the previous campaign and in the 2021-22 season, it was the other way round. The Blasters will be desperate to settle the scores after a heavy 4-0 defeat at the Mumbai Football Arena least season.
Bengaluru FC vs FC Goa (October 25, Wednesday, Bengaluru)
The rivalry between these two clubs have always been competitive and fierce with no shortage of drama. For a fact, there has never been a single goalless draw in the ISL whenever these two sides have gone head to head.
Bengaluru FC and FC Goa were among the most consistent teams in the league from 2017-20, reaching the semi-final on three occasions during this period. During the 2018-19 season, Bengaluru FC pipped FC Goa to claim the top spot despite both finishing level on points. The Blues once again got the better of the Gaurs in the final that season. The following season, FC Goa finished top of the standing, securing the League Shield.
Bengaluru FC have found ways to beat FC Goa in the past few years, with the Gaurs recording just two wins since the 2018-19 season. Both have faced each other a total of 15 times in the ISL with Bengaluru FC winning nine matches. FC Goa, on the other hand, have registered just three wins. Marquez’s side will have revenge on their minds after being beaten in both league clashes by the Blues last season.
Mohun Bagan Super Giant vs East Bengal FC (October 28, Saturday, Kolkata)
The mother of all derbies, Mohun Bagan SG and East Bengal FC will face each other for the third time this season. The two sides were pitted against each other in the Durand Cup group stage where East Bengal FC recorded their first Kolkata Derby victory in four years. Both sides clashed again in the final, where Mohun Bagan SG had the last laugh and secured a record 17th title.
But despite their defeat in the final, East Bengal FC have shown plenty of promise under new head coach Cuadrat. The Red & Golds have strengthened their squad and have pulled off many big-name signings.
The Mariners hold a 100 percent win record against their bitter rivals in the ISL, but East Bengal FC have already proven that they are capable of beating Juan Ferrando’s side. One can expect plenty of fireworks when the two sides meet in October.