Hero ISL 2022-23 key fixtures, December 2022: Big rivalries and clash of coaching philosophies on the cards
December in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is a special month as it’s that time of the year when all teams are at full throttle with two months of football behind them.
All flaws are ironed out, coaches have figured out their best elevens and with a festive cheer in the air, the football on show is a notch above.
December 2022 in Hero ISL has some fire-crackers in store with rivalries being reignited and master tacticians in the league battling it out against each other.
Here are the key fixtures to watch out for:
Mumbai City FC vs FC Goa (December 1, Thursday, Mumbai)
Mumbai City FC and FC Goa go a long way in the Hero ISL and have played out some of the most fascinating contests in the competition’s history. And when that happens, there is a birth of a rivalry, a healthy rivalry, but a rivalry nonetheless.
There is literally nothing to choose between the two sides who have played each other 21 times in the Hero ISL with both teams winning 7 games apiece apart from seven drawn matches.
FC Goa have scored more goals against Mumbai City FC than any other opponent in the league and also inflicted the heaviest defeat in the league’s history on the Islanders when they won 7-0 in the 2015 season.
The rivalry took off when Sergio Lobera was in-charge of the Gaurs as his FC Goa consistently got the better of Mumbai City FC before the Spaniard sensationally moved to Mumbai City FC and took with him a host of key players. In the 2020-21 season, the Islanders beat FC Goa in the semi-finals before going on to win the title.
This season, the two teams under two young managers in Carlos Pena and Des Buckingham, are ready to write a new chapter in the history of this rivalry.
Bengaluru FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan (December 3, Saturday, Bengaluru)
Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan may only have clashed on five occasions in their history but there is a huge potential for a rivalry between the two teams who have passionate sets of supporters.
With this fixture set to be played out in front of fans, expect as fierce a battle in the stands as on the pitch. The West Block Blues who pride themselves on making it a hostile atmosphere for visiting teams in Bengaluru will relish the prospect of hosting a formidable opponent at the Kanteerava that could compete with them for top honours come the end of the season.
There is an additional edge to this fixture after Bengaluru FC signed three former ATK Mohun Bagan players in Roy Krishna, Sandesh Jhingan and Prabir Das with Ashqiue Kuruniyan heading in the opposite direction.
Bengaluru FC are yet to taste victory in this fixture losing four out of the five encounters and with the home crowd backing them at the Kanteerava stadium, the Blues would be keen to post their first victory against ATK Mohun Bagan and make a statement of intent.
Kerala Blasters FC vs Bengaluru FC (December 11, Sunday, Kochi)
For both sets of fans, this is the fixture that is the most anticipated when the fixture list comes out. Kerala Blasters FC fans relish a contest against Bengaluru FC like no other while the Blues faithful wouldn’t value any other win more than the one over Kerala Blasters FC.
With the fans back in the stands, this game is expected to be greeted with an electric atmosphere as Kerala Blasters FC would love to cheer their team to a win over their bitterest rivals.
As for the Blues who have won on two of their last three visits to Kochi, another win would be very sweet.
Another intriguing aspect about this fixture this time around is that both the teams could be in the thick of the things when it comes to fighting for the top spots in the league and it will only add to the spice of this great duel.
Odisha FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan (December 15, Thursday, Bhubaneswar)
Odisha and West Bengal don’t always agree on the origins of their favourite desserts and the Hero ISL could provide the two east Indian states with another layer to their arguments.
Odisha FC and ATK Mohun Bagan have been very busy in the transfer market and have strengthened their respective squads in the mould of their Spanish coaches.
Juan Ferrando and Josep Gombau are among the finest tacticians in the league with similar playing styles.
Thus the contest between these two teams will be intriguing from a tactical perspective. Will Ferrando’s men prevail over Gombau’s troops thanks to their attacking firepower or will Gombau’s controlled playing style trump over the Mariners? Only time will tell.
There is also the added talking point of former ATK Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Amrinder Singh who secured a move to Odisha FC in the summer to further make the duel more interesting.
FC Goa vs NorthEast United FC (December 17, Saturday, Goa)
Two teams who have been part of the Hero ISL since the opening campaign have produced some cracking matches.
There has never been a goalless draw when the two teams have met with 50 goals being scored in this fixture.
While NorthEast United FC haven’t always been as consistent as FC Goa, they have matched their western counterparts in 50% of the matches played between the two teams which have ended in draws.
However, the Highlanders have found going tough in away games against FC Goa as they have failed to win a single game at the Fatorda stadium. In eight games away to FC Goa, the Highlanders have lost four times and have drawn as many.
With a rejuvenated team under Marco Baldul, NorthEast United would be hoping to put this record straight.
Chennaiyin FC vs Kerala Blasters FC (December 19, Monday, Chennai)
Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters FC have a long rivalry that dates back to that epic semi-final tie in the inaugural season of the league that finished 4-3 in Kerala Blasters FC’s favour.
Just like that tie, there has been very little to choose between the two teams in the Hero ISL with Chennaiyin FC winning six matches to Kerala Blasters FC’s five with the other seven meetings ending in draws.
Chennaiyin FC are currently on a four-match winless streak against the Blasters and they would love to put an end to that run in front of their home fans.
Ivan Vukomanovic and Thomas Brdaric are tactically astute managers and are known to throw up surprises which only adds to the intrigue of this fixture.