The Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 kicks-off on November 2020 behind closed doors in Goa. The 7th season of the cash-rich top division league will witness an unprecedented 115 games to be played across five months, with the inclusion of SC East Bengal.
Games will be played a Fatorda, Vasco, and Bambolim in Goa to maintain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the league to safeguard players and staff from the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic.
Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) announced the fixtures of the 7th ISL season till the end of Round 11 on Friday. Sportskeeda looks at the biggest match-ups of the season:
1) Kerala Blasters vs ATK Mohun Bagan - 20 November, 07.30 PM IST
With the merger of I-League Champions Mohun Bagan and ISL Champions ATK, the new entity ATK Mohun Bagan are the favorites going into the new season. ATK Mohun Bagan inherited the core of ISL 2019-20 defending champions ATK and are endorsed by the 131-year-old history of Mohun Bagan.
ATK Mohun Bagan are pegged to be the most followed and favored team in the new league season. They boast of Sandesh Jhingan, Tiri, Subhasish Bose, Bradden Inman, Roy Krishna, David Williams and Edu Garcia.
Kerala Blasters are under a managerial and roster revamp. Blasters have appointed I-League winning side Mohun Bagan's Head Coach Kibu Vicuna to take control of the Kochi-based side. With signings like Bakary Kone, Facundo Pereyra, Gary Hooper, Costa Nhamoinesu, Nongdamba Naorem and Givson Singh, Blasters look like a very balanced side on all frontiers.
With the huge fanbases of both sides, the opening ISL fixture will be surely one to look out for.
2) FC Goa vs Bengaluru FC - 22 November, 07.30 PM IST
The Gaurs and The Blues failed to make it to the ISL Final in the 2019-20 season, despite finishing first and third respectively in the league stage. Both teams will be looking to make amends and start their 2020-21 season with a win.
FC Goa are a new-look side with completely a different set of players in Igor Angulo, Ivan Gonzalez, Jorge Ortiz, and Alberto Noguera. New head coach Juan Ferrando will have a point to prove, and will want to show the fans that the Gaurs remain strong despite a lot of players leaving in the transfer season.
Bengaluru FC also have a few new names in the roster with Fran Gonzalez, Cleiton Silva and Kristian Ospeth. Carles Cuadrat will be hoping for a repeat of the ISL 2018-19 final in Mumbai, where they defeated the Gaurs.
3) FC Goa vs Mumbai City FC - 25 November, 07.30 PM IST
After the sale of majority stakes to the City Football Group (CFG), Mumbai City FC have a changed outlook in the 2020-21 season. The Islanders broke the bank and got giant foreigner names like Mourtada Fall, Hernan Santana, Ahmed Jahouh, Adam Le Fondre, Cy Goddard, Bartholomew Ogbeche, and Hugo Boumous.
Head Coach Sergio Lobera, who had a bitter-sweet break-up with his former employers FC Goa, will have a point to make as he crosses swords with his first ISL team.
It will be interesting to see if Juan Ferrando's FC Goa is able to withstand the might of Sergio Lobera's Mumbai City FC, as the tie is set to be a homecoming fixture for several Mumbai City FC players.
4) SC East Bengal vs ATK Mohun Bagan - 27 November, 07.30 PM IST
ISL debutants SC East Bengal will kick-off their campaign with the electrifying Kolkata Derby. The Red and Golds will face the Green and Maroons in their opening clash. The Kolkata Derby is the biggest spectacle in Indian club football and will have its debut in the ISL in the 2020-21 season.
The Derby is expected to be the most watched ISL fixture in the 2020-21 season, and will be a stage where players can emerge as household heroes in Kolkata.
The Red and Golds have formed a team based around the British Isles. Head Coach Robbie Fowler has assembled experienced campaigners like Anthony Pilkington, Jacques Maghoma, Matti Steinmann, Daniel Fox and Scott Neville to assist the Indian core. An interesting tactical battle awaits as English football will have its task cut out with the flair of Habas' Spanish brand of gameplay.
5) Chennaiyin FC vs Bengaluru FC - 4 December, 07.30 PM IST
Chennaiyin FC have always been known for a late upsurge after a shaky start. They cruised to their ISL titles in the 2015 and 2017-18 season after lurking at the bottom of the table a few weeks earlier. The same was almost repeated when Chennaiyin FC finished fourth after the league stage, and ending up as Cup Runners-Up in the 2019-20 season. Chennaiyin FC's most memorable fixture is arguably the game against Bengaluru FC in the 2017-18 ISL Final.
John Gregory's Marina Machans tamed Albert Roca's Blues in Bengaluru after a 2-3 pulsating win in front of a packed crowd. The rivalry between the teams has only grown into a strong regional clash in the football pitch. With Csaba Laszlo and Carles Cuadrat at helm of both the teams, Chennaiyin FC vs Bengaluru FC is expected to be yet another blockbuster.
6) Bengaluru FC vs Kerala Blasters - 13 December, 07.30 PM IST
Bengaluru FC vs Kerala Blasters was the fiercest rivalry for three seasons in the ISL. With the advent of the Kolkata Derby, the South Indian rivalry takes a backseat. However, the Blues vs the Yellow Sea clash has not lost its appeal to attract a huge viewership.
Bengaluru and Kerala have been at loggerheads for years now, making it one of the biggest growing regional football rivalries in the country. With a revamped setup at both clubs, Bengaluru FC vs Kerala Blasters will certainly be a big game to watch out for.
7) Kerala Blasters vs SC East Bengal - 20 December, 07.30 PM
The biggest fanbases in Indian football will be at loggerheads when Kibu Vicuna's Kerala Blasters host Robbie Fowler's East Bengal. Kerala are known to be the biggest fanbases in the ISL since its inception in 2014, but that could change now after the entry of SC East Bengal into the league.
Kerala Blasters and East Bengal fans have shown signs of a football brotherhood, with East Bengal Ultras - also known as the Bengal Brigade - working on joint projects with Manjappada. However, battle lines are expected to be drawn when they face each other for the first time in their history. The game could also jump over the Kolkata Derby in terms of viewership.
8) ATK Mohun Bagan vs Bengaluru FC - 21 December, 07.30 PM IST
I-League Rivalries will be reunited when the Mariners host the Blues on 21 December. The two sides share a long history — Mohun Bagan won the mantle of champions of India when they won the I-League 2014-15 at Bengaluru FC's stadium. Bengaluru enacted poetic revenge years later in the Super Cup 2018, where they eliminated the Mariners in the semi-finals.
With so much shared history at the top level of Indian football, ATK Mohun Bagan vs Bengaluru FC will be a game to watch out for in the ISL, especially for fans who followed the I-League in the early years of the Indian Super League.
9) Bengaluru FC vs SC East Bengal - 09 January, 07.30 PM IST
Just like ATK Mohun Bagan vs Bengaluru FC, the Blues have a long shared history with SC East Bengal. The Red and Golds have been at loggerheads with the Blues since the 2013-14 season. Fans have been involved in scuffles off the pitch, making it one of the most intense rivalries in Indian football.
The rivalry took a backseat after Bengaluru FC shifted to the ISL in the 2017-18 season. However, it was clear that both teams had no love lost when they faced off in the Super Cup 2018 final. The atmosphere was electric as was in the I-League fixtures, which will make the fixture a toughly contested affair.
10) ATK Mohun Bagan vs Mumbai City FC - 11 January, 07.30 PM IST
Arguably the two biggest teams on paper, the Mariners and Islanders will lock horns at the end of the first leg of fixtures. ATK Mohun Bagan, having retained ATKFC's core, already possess a set and in-form side led by Antonio Lopez Habas. Mumbai City FC have also broken the bank and have bought several big foreign names as mentioned earlier.
Teams will be set and cohesive by January, making this game an ever important fixture. The tie is expected to be a top of the table fixture, riddled with quality. The two teams are slated to go into the league as firm favorites.
View ISL 2020-21 Full Fixtures herePublished 31 Oct 2020, 15:46 IST