The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is back with the 2022-23 edition and there is more than one reason to be excited about the new campaign.

The Hero ISL this season has a new format that will see a six-team playoff for the ultimate glory which is certain to add to the excitement around the league.

But most importantly, it is the return of the fans to the stadiums that is making the upcoming season a special one. After two campaigns inside a bio-bubble and being played behind closed doors, the Hero ISL will finally be able to welcome back fans across the venues. It will add a different dynamic to the competition with home advantage becoming a major factor again.

With the return of the fans, the rivalries will be spicier and every game will have an edge to it.

As we look ahead to the new season, let’s take a glance at some of the key fixtures from October 2022, the opening month of the season.

Kerala Blasters FC vs East Bengal FC (Friday, October 7, Kochi)

Football will return to Kochi and also a sea of yellow after a gap of over two years. The Kerala Blasters FC fans who showed their passion from afar last year as they reached the final will be able to welcome back their heroes in what is expected to be a cracking season opener.

While the atmosphere in Kochi is expected to be the highlight of the occasion, a revamped East Bengal FC led by former Indian national team head coach Stephen Constantine will also be keen to add to the occasion and get their season off to a good start.

A nice, tasty Kerala vs Bengal affair to start off proceedings.

Hyderabad FC vs Mumbai City FC (Sunday, October 9, Hyderabad)

Hyderabad FC fans haven’t got the opportunity to see the team led by Manuel Marquez and the home fans will finally be able to welcome the champions back in Hyderabad, playing in front of them at the GMC Balayogi Athletic stadium.

And the first game back in Hyderabad couldn’t be any bigger with Mumbai City FC visiting. The two teams are expected to challenge for top honours come the end of the season and the clash will give both teams an opportunity to lay down an early marker.

Hyderabad FC and Mumbai City FC, the two previous Hero ISL champions know how to get things done and this clash, that will feature some of the league’s biggest stars in Bartholomew Ogbeche and Greg Stewart, could set the tone for their respective seasons.

Chennaiyin FC vs Bengaluru FC (Friday, October 14, Chennai)

The Chennaiyin FC versus Bengaluru FC matches always get the two sets of fans going and making it a clash neither team wants to lose. The two teams have indulged in some cracking games over the years that have further fueled this rivalry.

Bengaluru FC have had the upper hand in this fixture, winning six out of the 12 encounters between the two but Chennaiyin FC fans will remind the Blues that they came out on top in probably the most important fixture between the two teams which was the Hero ISL 2017-18 final in Bengaluru.

However, Bengaluru FC who did the double over Chennaiyin FC last season are unbeaten in six matches against the Marina Machans, having kept clean sheets in five of those games.

The Thomas Brdaric-led side would be keen to end this winless streak against their rivals especially with fans back to cheer them up at the JLN stadium.

Kerala Blasters FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan (Sunday, October 16, Kochi)

The second chapter of the Kerala vs Bengal rivalry will see ATK Mohun Bagan travel to Kerala Blasters FC. It will be the Mariners’ first visit to the JLN stadium in Kochi as they will have to battle the passionate Blasters fanbase while facing the talented team coached by Ivan Vukomanovic.

Kerala Blasters FC are yet to score a victory over ATK Mohun Bagan in the Hero ISL having lost three and drawn one of the four games between these two teams. However, the games between these two teams have always had fine margins with the Mariners recording just one-goal victories on all three occasions.

This fixture has also seen plenty of goals with 16 strikes in the four games played.

Mumbai City FC vs Jamshedpur FC (Saturday, October 22, Mumbai)

The battle between the last two League Winners is big enough in itself but there are other factors that make this match-up even more interesting.

The Islanders have signed Greg Stewart from Jamshedpur FC in the summer and the Scottish forward will face his former employers in the very first month of the new season.

Stewart’s presence on the pitch will give this game an edge as there will be a point to prove for everyone involved.

Jamshedpur FC though won’t feel too bad heading to the Mumbai Football Arena where they have won two out of three encounters between these two teams.

For the Islanders, a win over last year’s League Winners would be the perfect tonic for the rest of the campaign.

ATK Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal FC (Saturday, October 29, Kolkata)

A game that needs no introduction, no context and one that often gets the best out of the two teams. The Kolkata derby featuring the two powerhouses in the city is rightly termed as the Mother of all derbies and to make the occasion more special, it will be the first Kolkata derby in the Hero ISL with fans in the stands.

The Mariners have won all four Kolkata derbies in the Hero ISL but East Bengal FC who are now under the guidance of Stephan Constantine have made some shrewd buys in the transfer market and will be keen on settling scores with their arch-rivals.

With the Salt Lake stadium typically set to be divided into green and maroon on one side and red and gold on the other after a gap of two years, expect it to be a Kolkata derby like no other.

Jamshedpur FC vs NorthEast United FC (Sunday, October 30, Jamshedpur)

The final match of October 2022 will see NorthEast United FC travel to Jamshedpur FC with an aim to rewrite history.

The Highlanders have beaten the Men of Steel just once in Hero ISL history and have never tasted success at the JRD Sports Complex stadium in Jamshedpur.

With both teams under new head coaches, this match could be a tasty affair, especially with the fans in the stadium. The Red Miners have always supported their team with great vigour but they will have competition in the stands from NorthEast United FC fans who always make their presence felt in every away stadium.

The last three matches between the two teams have seen 13 goals, so expect a cracker.