History is set to repeat itself in the Indian Super League today as Atletico de Kolkata go up against the formidable Kerala Blasters in a repeat of the 2014 final. With the backing of 60,000 odd crazy Blasters fanatic, many might tilt the home side as the favourites for the contest.
However, Kolkata have history on their side going into the clash (winning four and losing only one of their past seven encounters). After beating the Blasters in the final a couple of years back, the team from the City of Joy have had the upper hand in the encounters. That also includes a 1-0 victory over Kerala at the South Coast earlier this season.
Overall, these two teams have gifted some of the best football, in the ISL this season over the past two months with some of the players making a mark for themselves. Today we look at how we can get the best out these two powerhouses if the were combined into one team.
Goalkeeper: Debjit Majumdar
The Mohun Bagan man has been one of the best signings in the ISL this season. After failing to grab much playing time at Mumbai City last year, the goalkeeper of the 2014/15 I-League season has finally made his mark in the ISL. After a sloppy start to the season, Majumdar came into his own in the middle parts. His performances against NorthEast United and Delhi away were certainly one that would make him favourite to be in contention for the national team.
Right back: Sandesh Jhingan
Jhingan is arguably the biggest find of the ISL in its three years. And the Indian international didn’t disappoint this time around either. Whether slotting in at right-back to allow Aaron Hughes into the side or playing in the natural position down the middle, Jhingan has looked assured and astute in his duties.
Centre back: Aaron Hughes
The Kerala backline was a mess last year, and it was not a huge surprise that the Tuskers chose to build from the back this year after Carlos Marchena’s flop show last year. In Aaron Hughes, the Tuskers not only brought a leader at the back with huge experience but also a capable defender who might be still able to play at the top level across Europe.
Centre back: Cedric Hengbart
The Kerala Blasters have reached the finals of the Indian Super League in each of the season Hengbart has been part of the team. That fact in itself should be enough to explain the importance of the Frenchman in the Blasters backline. The 36-year-old has once again proved that age is nothing but a number. With Aaron Hughes missing games owing to national team duties and the Blasters failing to score much in the early part of the season, Hengbart’s contribution to holding the fort at the back played a huge part in Kerala eventually qualifying for the semis.
Left back: Keegan Perreira
With both Josu and Robert out of the final, Keegan Perreira becomes the first choice for the eleven. Whilst Perreira hasn’t looked uncomfortable for most parts, he hasn’t set the ISL on fire either. The man who came into the side midway after performing his duties in the AFC Cup for Bengaluru FC has to not only be strong at the back but also provide ATK with some much-needed width down the left.
Centre midfield: Mehtab Hossain
The man from East Bengal had a very ordinary start to the season as he looked off pace and lacked composure in the middle. However, he has since picked up his game and become the lynchpin in the middle for Kerala. He not only shields the backline but also has been impeccable.
Centre midfield: Borja Fernandez
What more can I say about this guy that has not been already said? Borja Fernandes has been the heart and soul of the Atletico team that has now made three consecutive appearances in the final four of the ISL. Whilst many have time and again praised his skills with the ball at his feet, what many miss about the former Real Madrid man is his Football IQ, which for Indian footballing standards is off the charts.
Right midfield: Sameehg Doutie
Doutie has pace to burn and an ability to deliver the perfect ball into the centre that many coaches around the league would love to have in their players out wide. The South African started off on fire scoring one and assisting one in Kolkata’s game of the season against Chennaiyin and followed that up with a rasping volleyed winner against Goa.
The fleet-footed winger, however, went off the boil for a while in the middle of the tournament as a combination of injuries and loss of form ensued. He, however, came back in style to help Kolkata secure their place in the final four as a counter-attack in the last minute of the game away to Goa led by Doutie sealed the fates of both teams in the competition.
Left midfield: Kervens Belfort
Many expected Antonio German to be star foreign signing to be the main man for Kerala up front. However, with the Englishman struggling to find the form that saw him light up the ISL last season, Belfort came to the fore. While the Haitian international has lacked composure upfront, he certainly has both the pace and physique to cause the defenders trouble. And with Vineeth slotting in seamlessly in the line-up, Belfort has found playing on the wide to be more comfortable.
Forward: Iain Hume
Hume has had a subdued season so far by his standards and yet he finds himself with seven goals to his name. The Canadian has proved himself to be the man for the big occasions time and time again and he showed that yet again with his brace against Mumbai in the first leg of their semi-final. It was not only his goals, but his movement and sheer determination to come out as the winner, that saw him dominate the Mumbai back line. And Jose Molina will hope that there will still be more left in the tank for the final.
Forward: CK Vineeth
The Bengaluru FC forward has been exactly what the doctor prescribed for Kerala late on in the season. The Blasters qualification into the final four looked highly questionable with Steve Coppell’s men struggling to find the back of the net with much regularity. That was of course till Vineeth returned from AFC Cup. After securing a crucial three points via a late goal against Goa, the local boy has gone from strength to strength and now finds himself with five goals and three assists to his name.Published 18 Dec 2016, 16:31 IST