Match 1, Preview: Kerala Blasters FC host East Bengal FC in Hero ISL 2022-2023 season opener

Hero Indian Super League (ISL) will kick off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, Kerala, on 07th October, Friday, with Kerala Blasters hosting East Bengal FC.

Kerala Blasters ended HERO ISL Season 2021-2022 as runners-up, losing out on penalties to Hyderabad FC. The three-time Hero Indian Super League runners-up will be looking to sustain this level and will have the backing of their passionate home support who are back in the stadiums.

Kerala Blasters Head Coach, Ivan Vukomanović, who will be at the helm for a second season running, said he was unwilling to underestimate the threat that East Bengal possessed.

“They showed in the Durand cup that they can be one of the surprises, of course. They have a good coach, they have a good team, and like I said, anybody can beat anybody in every game - it’s possible in the ISL. They’re a good team - and of course - whoever thinks that it’ll be easy against East Bengal, they’re wrong. This is a good team and a good organization and we have to be ready for tomorrow,” Vukomanović said.

Last season, Kerala Blasters scored 37 goals with Alvaro Vazquez and Jorge Diaz being their leading scorers with 8 goals. This season, the Blasters will be without both of them and will be reliant on replacements Apostolos Giannou and Dimitrios Diamantakos to fill in. Thirteen of their 37 goals last season were scored by Indian players, with Sahal Adbul Samad getting six. He is expected to be a key player for the Blasters this season.

East Bengal Head Coach, Stephen Constantine, will be managing a Hero ISL club for the first time on Friday but has a wealth of experience in India, having managed the Indian National team for seven years across two stints. East Bengal won only one game last season, and Constantine said that the rebuild would be a progressive one.

“I had 12 players when I arrived six weeks ago. Now, we have a squad with 26 to 27 players. They’ve worked very hard for me so far but the proof is in the pudding and we’ll find out tomorrow how good or how bad we are. We are not the finished article but I can promise you we didn’t come to lose the game tomorrow and I didn’t come to East Bengal to finish in last place,” Constantine said.

East Bengal have signed proven attacking players in Cleiton Silva, Aniket Jadhav, and Suhair VP ahead of this season as well as fortified their defence - which conceded 18 more than they scored last season - with the likes of Ivan Gonzalez and Jerry Lalrinzuala.

KBFC and East Bengal has played 4 times and with 3 draws and KBFC winning the last time these two met in HERO ISL 2021-2022.

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