Stage is all set for Hero ISL 2020-21 opener between Kerala Blasters and ATK Mohun Bagan

The wait for the start of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 ends on Friday as Kerala Blasters FC prepare to go up against ATK Mohun Bagan at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim in this season’s curtain-raiser. The Blasters have played in more Hero ISL season openers than any other team, while ATK Mohun Bagan will be making their debut in the league. Both teams will be eager to begin their respective campaigns on a positive note and build some momentum for what promises to be a challenging season.

Two-time Hero ISL runners-up Kerala Blasters will be looking to qualify for their first playoff appearance in four seasons with head coach Kibu Vicuna taking charge of the club and they will back themselves to get the better of ATK Mohun Bagan having beaten an Antonio Habas-led side twice last season. Kerala, though, will need to be more solid at the back than they were in Hero ISL 2019-20, and have assembled a strong defence that features the likes of Costa Nhamoinesu and Bakary Kone in the centre-back positions. The Blasters also have exciting fullbacks in former Hero ISL winner Nishu Kumar and Jessel Carneiro, who provided five assists last season.

The Kochi-based club possess a lot of talent in midfield as well. Sergio Cidoncha, who will be competing in his third Hero ISL campaign, will be entrusted with providing the creative thrust from midfield. Argentine attacker Facundo Pereyra is also a player who can create chances from the centre of the park and it will be interesting to see how Vicuna decides to use him. Vicente Gomez is another exciting new signing who will bring a wealth of experience to Kerala’s midfield and look to shield their defence.

Jeakson Singh, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Sahal Abdul Samad and Seityasen Singh can also be their Indian options in midfield besides Nongdamba Naorem who can expect some game time having excelled under Vicuna last season. Up front, Kerala will be banking on Gary Hooper to score the goals. The former Celtic striker will lead Kerala’s frontline and is known for being clinical in and around the opposition penalty box. Australian frontman Jordan Murray is also a striking option that the Blasters can opt for.

ATK Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, will be hoping for a win on their Hero ISL debut under head coach Antonio Lopez Habas and they have a team that’s capable of making that happen. From defence to attack, the Kolkata giants possess both quality and depth. Their centre-back pairing of Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan, who will be playing for the first time ever against his former club Kerala Blasters FC, is as strong as any in the league. And their fullbacks Pritam Kotal, Subhasish Bose and Prabir Das, who like Kerala’s Carneiro managed five assists last season, aren’t bad either.

They also have experience in the middle with the likes of Javier Hernandez, Carl McHugh, Bradden Inman, Pronay Halder, Jayesh Rane and Michael Soosairaj indicating the wealth of talent in ATK Mohun Bagan’s midfield. The Mariners will be relying on the tried and tested duo of Roy Krishna and David Williams to score the goals this campaign. They combined to score 22 times last season and will hoping to have a similar impact with ATK Mohun Bagan.

Kerala must also be wary of Habas’ ability to change the direction of contests from the bench. His substitutions last season resulted in nine goals with Edu Garcia scoring four of them. Garcia along with Manvir Singh will be two valuable options from the bench for ATK Mohun Bagan since both of them have shown that they can alter the course of a match as substitutes in the past.

Squads:

Kerala Blasters FC

Goalkeepers: Albino Gomes, Bilal Husain Khan, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Muheet Khan.

Defenders: Costa Nhamoinesu, Nishu Kumar, Bakary Kone, Jessel Carneiro, Sandeep Singh, Abdul Hakku, Lalruatthara

Midfielders: Sergio Cidoncha, Sahal Abdul Samad, Vicente Gomez, Seityasen Singh, Rahul KP, Givson Singh, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Yondrembem Denechandra, Nongdamba Naorem, Arjun Jayaraj, Ayush Adhikari, Jeakson Singh, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Ritwik Das, Rohit Kumar

Forwards: Gary Hooper, Jordan Murray, Facundo Pereyra, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Shaiborlang Kharpan.

ATK Mohun Bagan

Goalkeepers: Arindam Bhattacharja, Dheeraj Singh, Avilash Paul, Arsh Shaikh, Aryan Niraj Lamba

Defenders: Tiri, Pritam Kotal, Prabir Das, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose, Sumit Rathi

Midfielders: Pronay Halder, Bradden Inman, Javier Hernandez, Edu Garcia, Carl McHugh, Glan Martins, Jayesh Rane, Michael Soosairaj, Boris Singh, Regin Michael, Sahil Sheikh, N Engson Singh

Forwards: David Williams, Roy Krishna, Manvir Singh, Md. Fardin Ali Molla

Live Broadcast Schedule:

Hero ISL 2020-21 Match 1: Kerala Blasters FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan

Date: November 20 (Friday)

Time: 7:30 PM onwards

Channels: Star Sports Network

Streaming: Disney+ Hotstar and Jio TV

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