The seventh edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) will kick-off today as the Kerala Blasters take on the ATK Mohun Bagan, at the GMC Stadium Bambolim in Goa. ISL 2020-21 will be played behind closed doors, across three venues in the state. In the first game of this year's ISL, both sides will look to start the campaign on a positive note and carry the momentum through the rest of the season.
Kerala Blasters FC Preview
Kerala Blasters FC (KBFC) are a much-changed side after a handful of new signings. The team has added multiple overseas players as well as a couple of Indian talents ahead of ISL 2020-21.
The team boasts a strong defensive lineup, with the likes of Nishu Kumar, Jessel Carneiro, Bakary Koné, Costa Nhamoinesu in the squad. However, the Tuskers lost their most capped player, Sandesh Jhinghan, to rivals ATK Mohun Bagan and fans will be upset to see him don different colours this year.
Goalkeeping was a major concern for the Kerala Blasters last season, but they look to have fixed the issue with the signings of Albino Gomes and Prabhsukhan Gill.
KBFC have strengthened their squad by bringing in seven new overseas players this season. Sergio Cidoncha and Facundo Pereyra headline a midfield that contains several young and inexperienced players. However, the two overseas stars will aim to set an example and the youngsters have a lot to learn from the duo.
English forward Gary Hooper and Australian striker Jordan Murray will be the key players in the attacking department. The Kerala Blasters are a very young side, and the onus will be on the foreign players to lead from the front.
ATK Mohun Bagan Preview
ATK Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, have retained last season's I-League core and have bolstered their team by signing Sandesh Jhingan, Brad Inman and Carl McHugh.
The Kolkata-based team has a very well-balanced squad, with no glaring weakness in any department. Arindam Bhattacharya was a key player between the sticks last season, and is the team's first-choice goalkeeper for ISL 2020-21 as well.
Coach Antonio Habas will continue to use his formation which includes just three defenders. The side is built on a strong backline with the likes of Jhingan, Sumit Rathi, Pritam Kotal and overseas star Tiri, expected to play big roles.
Habas is known for his attacking style of play, and gave opportunities to several youngsters last season. Prabir Das was exceptional under the coach's guidance and will be looking to continue his outstanding performances this season.
Captain Roy Krishna and David Williams will be the team's main strikers ahead of a five-man midfield which included two wingers. With their depth, coaching and experience, ATK Mohun Bagan are strong contenders ahead of ISL 2020-21.
ISL 2020-21: KBFC vs ATKMB Match Prediction
Previous fixtures between these two sides have always been entertaining affairs, and one can expect a mouth-watering clash when they meet on Friday. Although the Kerala Blasters finished in the second half of the table in ISL 2019-20, they were applauded for their attacking approach to games.
The GMC Stadium is a challenging venue for both the sides as it has not hosted many games before. There certainly will be players making their ISL debuts tonight, especially for the Kerala Blasters side. Debutants ATK Mohun Bagan are expected to start their strongest playing XI in the opening fixture of ISL 2020-21.
The Mariners have a potent attacking lineup and will go into this fixture as clear favourites. Nevertheless, the Kerala Blasters' young squad will fancy their chances and look to cause an upset.
Fiji striker Roy Krishna was fantastic in the IS last year and scored 15 goals. The ATK Mohun Bagan skipper will look to continue his rich vein of form and is the one to watch out for against Kerala Blasters FC.