As the 2020-21 season of the ISL kicks off in Goa this evening, there is little doubt that the additions of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan add thrills and excitement to the season.
The two historic Kolkata clubs will make their presence felt in the ISL, not least with the ardent fan-following that both have.
Mohun Bagan joined hands with last year's champions ATK, and the merged entity will play the league opener against Kerala Blasters in Bambolim on Friday evening.
ATK Mohun Bagan have retained most of their significant players from last year's title-winning ATK squad. A cursory look at the squad would say that only Agus Garcia has left them, out of the players that played a significant role in the title success last season.
There is a strong case to make that ATK Mohun Bagan, with the additions to their squad, are even stronger than last year's ATK were.
If Antonio Lopez Habas sticks to the back three that he used throughout last season, then ATK Mohun Bagan have added the ideal personnel to make the defence foolproof.
Sandesh Jhingan is a massive addition, even though there is the uncertainty that comes with a return from a long-term injury layoff. Jhingan didn't play a single minute of ISL football last season, after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, while on international duty with the Blue Tigers.
Tiri returns to the city that he played for before he made the move to Jamshedpur FC, where he was a mainstay along with being captain.
Subasish Bose is a shrewd addition to the ATK Mohun Bagan squad as well, with his ability to cover ground oin the left flank. Last season, Habas had to use the likes of Michael Soosairaj as the left wing-back, when it was clear that it wasn't the Tamil Nadu man's natural position.
Soosairaj kept cutting in from the flank to get the ball on to his stronger right foot, which meant that there was no width for the side down the left flank.
That is not to suggest that Soosairaj did anything wrong on his own. It just felt sometimes as if the role didn't suit him given what his strengths were.
ATK Mohun Bagan look to Krishna and Williams for goals
Like ATK last year, the goal threat for ATK Mohun Bagan this season will come in the form the combination of Roy Krishna and David Williams.
Krishna scored 14 goals last season to lift ATK in the league stages, while Williams scored a brace in the semifinal second leg against Bengaluru FC to take them through to the final.
Last season at ATK was a happy continuation of a partnership the two players forged during their time together at Wellington Phoenix.
In Javi Hernandez, ATK Mohun Bagan possess a creator capable of providing enough service to Krishna and Williams. Last season, Edu Garcia was a super-sub of sorts for Habas last season, and it is likely that he will continue to take on that role this season as well.
What will be interesting, though, is Manvir Singh's role in the side. The Indian striker has signed a long-term deal with ATK Mohun Bagan after moving from FC Goa. With Krishna and Williams set top take up a bulk of the minutes, Manvir's playing time could become a cause of concern for Igor Stimac.
But with strength in depth, and quality players available in every position, ATK Mohun Bagan are sureshot contenders to be fighting to finish at the top of the league, and to win the ISL trophy as well.Published 20 Nov 2020, 15:51 IST