For the "away" side in this opener, this is the beginning of a new chapter, with the off-season seeing the merger of defending ISL champions ATK and defending I-League champions Mohun Bagan.
In this season unlike any other, which will be played behind closed doors in Goa, the ISL has been lifted by the entries of the two Kolkata giants. Mohun Bagan have merged with ATK, while East Bengal have been bought by Shree Cement, and made their move into the ISL.
This match also has an interesting angle to it, in Kerala Blasters head coach Kibu Vicuna. Last season, the Spaniard had led Mohun Bagan to their first I-League trophy in five years, with a sensational run that saw them lose just one game.
On the other side, Sandesh Jhingan, who signed for ATK Mohun Bagan in the off-season, comes up against a side for whom he played in the ISL for five years.
Kerala Blasters vs ATK Mohun Bagan Head-to-Head
This is ATK Mohun Bagan's first game in their current form, and it has been said that the records of the erstwhile ATK FC would not be carried forward to this club.
Given that the core of this ATK Mohun Bagan side is the same as last year's ATK, it would be important to note that they lost both their games in the league to Kerala Blasters last season.
On the opening day in Kochi, a Barthlomew Ogbeche brace gave Kerala Blasters a 2-1 win, while they won 1-0 at the Salt Lake Stadium thanks to a goal from Halicharan Narzary.
Kerala Blasters vs ATK Mohun Bagan Team News
Kerala Blasters are expected to have a settled back four throughout the season, with Nishu Kumar playing in a new role as a right-back. Jessel Carneiro has been named as one of the club captains, so it is a guarantee that he will start at left-back.
Costa Nhamoinesu will partner Bakary Kone in defence, with Vicente Gomez expected to shield the back four, in his defensive midfield role.
The link-up between the likes of Sahal Abdul Samad, Facundo Pereyra and Gary Hooper will be key to Kerala Blasters's season, and they will be looking to hit the ground running in this game.
For ATK Mohun Bagan, Antonio Lopez Habas is expected to keep the system he played last year, with the bulk of the personnel remaining the same from the title-winning ATK side.
Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan will form the back three alongside Pritam Kotal, with Subhasish Bose and Prabir Das providing width as the wing-backs.
The strike partnership of David Williams and Roy Krishna struck fear in other teams last season, and those two will be keen to continue that this year.
Kerala Blasters vs ATK Mohun Bagan Predicted XI
Kerala Blasters Predicted XI (4-3-3): Albino Gomes; Nishu Kumar, Bakary Kone, Costa Nhamoinesu, Jessel Carneiro; Vicente Gomez, Jeakson Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad; Facundo Pereyra, Rahul KP, Gary Hooper
ATK Mohun Bagan Predicted XI (3-4-1-2): Arindam Bhattacharya; Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Tiri; Prabir Das, Pronay Halder, Carl McHugh, Subhasish Bose; Javi Hernandez; David Williams, Roy Krishna
Kerala Blasters vs ATK Mohun Bagan Prediction
With a truncated pre-season, it couldn't have been very easy for Vicuna to drill his methods into a squad that is also largely new. ATK Mohun Bagan have an advantage in having continuity in terms of their manager and a lot of their playing squad. Hence, we are predicting a narrow win for the Mariners in this game.
Prediction: Kerala Blasters 1-2 ATK Mohun BaganPublished 18 Nov 2020, 22:49 IST