Key clashes to look forward to in the first fifteen days of Hero ISL 2019-20

The Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) returns on October 20, 2019. With the premier football competition entering its sixth edition this season, fans can look forward to some scintillating and captivating footballing action for the next six months.

The first fifteen days of Hero ISL 2019-20 season offer non-stop action, with mouthwatering fixtures scheduled from October 20 to November 3.

Here are some of the key match ups to look forward to from the first fifteen days of Hero ISL 2019-20.

Grand opening day

There's no better way to kickstart a new season than with two of the biggest rivals in the league's history going head to head and Hero ISL 2019-20 will kick off with ATK and Kerala Blasters renewing their epic rivalry. The two have faced each other in two Hero ISL finals - first in the inaugural 2014 season and then again in 2016 - with ATK coming out on top on both occasions. The reverse leg of the same fixture initiated the 2018-19 season of Hero ISL, too, and saw the Blasters come out on top by a 2-0 scoreline at Kolkata. ATK will be eager to return the favour this time around with Kerala playing hosts. ATK and Kerala finished 6th and 9th respectively last season but have strengthened significantly for the coming campaign.

Kerala, helmed by new head coach Eelco Schattorie, is expected to be strong contenders this season, having cherrypicked some of last season's top players from fellow Hero ISL teams. With the likes of Bartholomew Ogbeche, Sergio Cidoncha, Gianni Zuiverloon joining Sandesh Jhingan and Sahal Abdul Samad at Kochi, fans can expect a special season from the Men in Yellow.

ATK, this season, will welcome back Spanish head coach Antonio Lopez Habas, who guided them to the Hero ISL 2014 title. Having added a host of coveted foreign players to their ranks like Roy Krishna, Carl McHugh, David Williams, Javier Hernandez and others, the two-time champions will definitely be gunning for their third title.

An action-packed first week

The second match of the season on October 21 will feature reigning champions Bengaluru FC, as they initiate their title defence with a home match against NorthEast United FC. To recall, the teams faced off in last season’s semi-finals as Bengaluru came out on top after winning the second leg to conclude an entertaining affair.

Helmed by World Cup bronze medalist Robert Jarni this campaign, the Highlanders will be eager to better their performances from last season. Bengaluru, meanwhile, will be a familiar outfit with top stars like Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Dimas Delgado and others all set to return. However, one notable absentee for the Blues will be striker Miku - a man who played a huge role in the team's success over the last two campaigns. Spanish forward Manuel Onwu has been brought in to fill in the big shoes and head coach Carles Cuadrat will be hoping that his fellow countryman is up to the task.

October 23rd will have another blockbuster in the offing, with FC Goa hosting Chennaiyin FC. The two teams met in Hero ISL 2015 final - a match Chennaiyin eventually won 3-2 courtesy two very late goals. The dramatic finish to the match kickstarted a major rivalry which have only grown strength to strength over the last three seasons.

Sergio Lobera has kept hold of all his key players who were instrumental to the Gaurs' run to the final in the 2018-19 campaign. Spearheaded by Hero ISL's all-time top goal scorer Ferran Corominas, the Gaurs are known for their attacking prowess and will be thorough entertainers throughout the season.

Two-time Hero ISL champions Chennaiyin FC endured a terrible campaign last term and John Gregory's men will be eager to redeem themselves this season. They have roped in defensive ace Lucian Goian from Mumbai City FC and also boast a host of new exciting faces like Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis.

Another notable fixture from the first week include Kerala hosting Mumbai City FC in a crunch tie in Kochi on October 24. The Islanders emerged 6-1 winners the last time the two crossed swords, giving the tie a lot of pretext.

The action heats up over the next eight days

With matches scheduled for each of the next eight days after the completion of the first week, things are set to heat up a notch or two. The second week begins with Chennaiyin playing hosts to the Islanders on October 27. The following day, the Gaurs' second match of the competition will pit them in another tough home fixture against reigning champions Bengaluru FC on October 28. The two met in a closely-contested final last term with Bengaluru eventually clinching it in Extra Time. Both were, by far, the most impressive teams last campaign and will be eager to get one up over the other early in the competition this term.

October 30, meanwhile, will witness two of the most successful teams in the history of Hero ISL – ATK and Chennaiyin - face off. Both teams have won the trophy twice and will look to add a third to their cabinet this season. However, neither of these behemoths quite lived up to the high expectations set on them during Hero ISL 2018-19 and will be eager to put the disappointment in the rearview mirror with a strong start to their respective seasons. Both Gregory and Habas will want to make an early statement of intent in Hero ISL 2019-20 and there's no bigger statement that can be made than a victory over fellow two-time title holders. The two are prone to playing out some edge-of-the-seat classics when they meet and fans can very well expect another when they square off for the first time this season.

The first 15 days of intense action finally concludes with Jamshedpur FC welcoming Bengaluru FC at the Furnace.

These are, however, just the tip of the iceberg with a lot more tantalizing clashes set to accompany them over the next few months.

You can check out the full fixture list here and tell us the match ups you are looking forward to the most in the comments below.

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