ISL 2017: 5 reasons why Kerala Blasters will defeat ATK on the opening day
The Manjappada will be out in full force on Friday evening as the Kerala Blasters kick-start the latest season of the Indian Super League when they host last year's winners ATK in Kochi. The match-up represents a repeat of last year's final where the Kolkata outfit outlasted the Blasters to win the title after a penalty shoot-out.
The loss meant the Blasters finished bridesmaids for a second time in the three seasons of the ISL thus far. This time around, they are back, with some big hitters in their ranks to try and have another go at it.
ATK though are formidable opponents and the Blasters have only one win in eight meetings against them. ATK also have never lost their first away game in the tournament in their three seasons. Yet, there are reasons that the Blasters could buck the trends and inflict damage on the 2-time ISL champions tomorrow. Here's why:
#1 Bye-bye solid football?
Steve Coppell was the latest in the series of English head coaches in the Blasters' dugout last season following in the footsteps of David James and Trevor Morgan.
With the Englishmen in charge, the Blasters developed a largely British identity in the way they went about their game. Solid defensively, difficult to break down and physically strong, the Blasters showcased all of the attributes that British club sides tend to exhibit. It also meant they weren't the most exciting going forward.
This year sees another man who made his name in the English game at the helm of affairs. However, he isn't British, but did serve time at one of Britain's most successful football clubs.
Rene Meulensteen was a long-time deputy to Manchester United's legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. The Dutchman was at the club during some of their biggest successes this millennium and has talked a good game ahead of the season opener. He's said that his side will play "one-touch, attacking football" as they look to break down ATK's solid defence.
Meulensteen certainly doesn't lack ideas when it comes to attacking football and the pragmatism of the former coaches seems to have given way to a more expressive one under Meulensteen. If the Blasters do play as their coach suggests, ATK will be in trouble.