ISL Team Preview: Kerala Blasters
Home Ground: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi
Manager: David James
The team with the greatest fanbase in the country, or perhaps even among the most passionate fanbase in the world, this is the perfect description for the Kochi based franchise, Kerala Blasters. But last season Kerala Blasters couldn't rise high up to the expectations as they finished 6th on the table with only 6 wins from 18 games. The manager René Meulensteen was sacked mid-season and was replaced by the former player-manager David James. Following the departure of many players who represented Blasters last season, David James has got the right combination that he needs to win the title.
Blasters kickstarted their pre-season with matches against LaLiga team Girona FC and Australian A-League team Melbourne City FC. Later they went to Thailand for the remaining games and had a good preseason exercise there. Manager David James insisted that signing of a young team will be the key for the success as the average age of the team is merely 24 years. The squad has a mix of Indian as well as International talent at their disposal.
Dheeraj Singh, Naveen Kumar, Sujith Sasikumar (All India)
Blasters have acquired the service of Indian U-17 World Cup hero Dheeraj Singh as well as the former FC Goa goalkeeper Naveen Kumar. The local boy Sujith can give a great competition for the starting spot.
Anas Edathodika, Sandesh Jinghan, Lalruatthara, Mohamad Rakip, Pritam Singh (All India), Cyril Kali (France), Nemanja Lakic Pesic (Serbia)
With the signing of Indian international Anas Edathodika from FC Jamshedpur, Blasters can boast of having the best defense in the league on paper with the captain Sandesh Jinghan, Lalruatthara and Nemanja Lakic Pesic joining the fold. Cyril Kali was excellent for the Blasters for the pre-season and will provide experience to the side.
Courage Pekuson (Ghana), Keziron Kizito(Uganda), Nikola Krcmarevic(Serbia), Deependra Negi, Halicharan Narzary, Hrishi Dhath, Loken Meitei, Prasanth K, Sahal Abdul Samad, Seminlel Doungel, Suraj Rawat, Zakeer Mundampara(All India).
Pekuson, Prasanth, Kizito and Negi played a great role last season. Now they are joined by fellow Indians Narzary, Meitei, Doungel and Zakeer. Blasters signed former Serbian U19 and U21 international Nikola Krcmarevic who plays as a defensive midfielder.
CK Vineeth(India), Matej Poplatnik(Slovenia), Slavisla Stojanovic(Serbia)
All eyes will be on the local boy CK Vineeth who has scored many important goals in their history. Blasters have replaced ISL all-time top scorer Ian Hume and Berbatov with Poplatnik and Stojanovic who has an impressive goal scoring record.
With the KBFC fans planning to storm the home matches and away matches in large numbers and paint the Indian Super League in yellow, it is up to the players and staff to repay the fans with entertaining football and top class results. Let hope David James and the team can finally have a touch on the silverware.
Prediction: Kerala Blasters will reach Semi-Finals for this year's Hero Indian Super League (2018-19)