The 2018-19 campaign of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) gets underway with ATK taking on the Kerala Blasters FC at the iconic Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday.
In a repeat of last season’s opener, both sides come into this tie with renewed hope after a disappointing year. In front of the passionate Kolkata supporters, the opening game promises to be a truly enthralling fixture with plenty of renowned names taking to the pitch.
Heading into the season, ATK are tagged as one of the favourites to take home the trophy. The two-time champions have made a series of high-profile signings over the course of the summer. With the likes of Gerson Vieira, John Johnson and Manuel Lanzarote within their ranks, they look like a formidable force.
To add to the impressive transfer signings, Steve Coppell has been appointed as the new head coach. The Englishman has an impressive record in the league, managing Jamshedpur and Saturday’s opponents Kerala Blasters in the past two seasons.
ATK have an impressive record against their southern rivals and if past records are anything to go by, they will be fancying themselves to get the season off the mark with a victory.
Under head coach David James, Kerala Blasters will be on the lookout for their maiden Hero ISL title, coming close on two occasions in the past and being defeated both times by the same opponent they face on Saturday.
Coming into the first game of the season, the club has fared a tough time in the past month when they were forced to shift their training base to Ahmedabad, owing to the devastating floods that hit Kerala. A victory in their first game against ATK will serve as the perfect confidence boost for the team and give ample happiness to the recuperating Keralites.
The Blasters have made some impressive signings over the summer, most notably Indian centre-back Anas Edathodika. However, the 31-year-old will miss the tie owing to a suspension he picked up during the Hero Super Cup earlier this year. Captain Sandesh Jhingan will be held with the responsibility of keeping out the likes of Lanzarote and Everton Santos, with youngster Dheeraj Singh likely to take guard under the sticks.
ATK: Arindam Bhattacharja(GK), Andre Bikey, John Johnson, Aiborlang Khongjee, Sena Ralte, Gerson Viera, Pronay Halder, Everton Santos, Manuel Lanzarote, Jayesh Rane, Balwant Singh
Kerala Blasters: Dheeraj Singh (GK), Sandesh Jhingan, Pritam Singh, Cyril Kali, Lalruatthara, Keziron Kizito, Courage Pekuson, Halicharan Narzary, CK Vineeth, Slavisla Stojanovic, Matej Poplantic
ATK to win 2-1 over Kerala Blasters FC in the season opener.