The highly successful Indian Super League (ISL) returns for a fourth season which promises to be bigger and better than ever. The 2017-18 season sees the arrival of two new teams, Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC with the league expanding from eight teams to 10. With the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) recognising the ISL as a national league, the winners will get a spot in the in the next edition of the AFC Cup.
Like the previous editions, the ISL follows the league format similar to the Major League Soccer (MLS). The top four teams after the league stage enter the semi-finals and the victorious team in the final will be crowned champions.
An important and positive rule change means that teams have to field a minimum of six Indian players in the starting lineup while each team also needs to have a minimum of two U-21 players in the squad. This has led to teams focusing on developing Indian talent as opposed to attracting marquee foreign stars.
The fourth season starts on 17 November, 2017 and the regular season will conclude on 4 March, 2018. The semi-final stage is scheduled from the second week of March 2018 with the final to be held on 17 March, 2018 in Kolkata. Here is an in-depth look at the squads of the 10 clubs.
The defending champions ended their three-year partnership with La Liga side Atletico Madrid in the summer and in the process, rechristened themselves as ATK. That wasn't the only change as legendary Premier League forward, Teddy Sheringham was appointed as manager. ATK also ended their largely unproductive association with marquee player Helder Postiga and signed former LA Galaxy talisman Robbie Keane. The two-time champions retained goalkeeper Debjit Majumder as well as full-back Prabir Das over the ISL’s all-time top-scorer Iain Hume who was signed by Kerala Blasters. With Hume’s departure, the onus of leading the attack will rest on Keane, India international Robin Singh and former Aizawl FC attacker Jayesh Rane.
Goalkeepers: Debjit Majumder, Kunzang Bhutia, Jussi Jaaskelainen
Defenders: Nallappan Mohanraj, Tom Thorpe, Jordi, Keegan Pereira, Anwar Ali, Augustin Fernandes, Prabir Das, Ashutosh Mehta
Midfielders: Conor Thomas, Carl Baker, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Darren Caldeira, Shankar Sampingiraj, Rupert Nongrum, Hitesh Sharma, Ronald Singh, Bipin Singh
Forwards: Njazi Kuqi, Zequinha, Jayesh Rane, Robbie Keane, Robin Singh
Coach: Teddy Sheringham
One of the two new entrants to the ISL, two-time I-League champions, Bengaluru FC are one of the favourites to lift the coveted trophy at the end of the season. Their AFC Cup run has given time for the team to gel as well as get adequate pre-season practice. With Indian captain Sunil Chhetri and the young Udanta Singh leading the attack, goals will be one thing that the Blues won’t be worrying about, while new signing Gurpreet Singh will be tasked with keeping clean sheets for the newcomers. John Johnson has been ever present in the Bengaluru side, joining them since the inception of the club. The Englishman has been a vital player for Blues and his partnership with Juanan in defence will be key to Bengaluru’s title hopes.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Abhra Mondal
Defenders: Rahul Bheke, Zohmingliana Ralte, Harmanjot Khabra, Collin Abranches, Juanan, John Johnson, Nishu Kumar, Subashish Bose, Joyner Lourenco
Midfielders: Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado, Edu Garcia, Toni Dovale, Lenny Rodrigues, Malsawmzuala, Boithang Haokip, Alwyn George, Robinson Singh, Bidyananda Singh
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Miku, Braulio Nobrega, Thongkhosiem Haokip
Coach: Albert Roca
After a disappointing 2016-17 campaign, Chennaiyin FC parted ways with manager Marco Matterazi and appointed the Englishman John Gregory as their first team coach. The Marina Machans retained India international Jeje Lalpekhlua and custodian Karanjit Singh. The squad has a mixture of quality Indian and foreign players with last season’s emerging player of the year Jerry Lalrinzuala, Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh providing youthful dynamism while their foreign recruits Mailson Alves, Henrique Sereno and Raphael Augusto bring in years of experience at the top level. Spearheading the Chennai attack will be Jeje, who will be raring to get back to his best after a lacklustre campaign last season.
Goalkeepers: Karanjit Singh, Shahinlal Meloly, Pawan Kumar
Defenders: Henrique Sereno (c), Inigo Calderon, Mailson Alves, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Dhanachandra Singh, Fulganco Cardozo, Sanjay Balmuchu, Keenan Almeida
Midfielders: Raphael Augusto, Jaime Gavilan, Rene Mihelic, Thoi Singh, Bikramjit Singh, Dhanpal Ganesh, Germanpreet Singh, Francis Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa
Forwards: Gregory Nelson, Jude Nworuh, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Mohammed Rafi, Baoringdao Bodo
Coach: John Gregory
Delhi Dynamos FC
Despite reaching the semi-finals in the previous two seasons, the Lions opted not to retain any players including top scorer Marcelinho, playmaker Florent Malouda and Kean Lewis. Delhi signed the I-League winning former Aizawl FC goalkeeper Albino Gomes, who failed to nail a starting spot during his two seasons with Mumbai. Delhi though managed to sign the tireless full-back pair of Sena Ralte and Pritam Kotal while Paulinho Dias will take on the responsibility of dictating the play in midfield for the Lions. The task of replacing Marcelinho falls on the 34-year old Nigerian striker Kalu Uche. It is to be seen whether the ageing Super Eagles star can shoulder the task of leading the Delhi attack.
Goalkeeper: Albino Gomes, Sukhadev Patil and Arnab Das Sharma
Defenders: Gabriel Cichero, Jayananda Singh Moirangthem, Lalmangaihsanga Ralte, Mohammad Sajid Dhot, Munmum Timothy Lugun, Pratik Chowdhary, Pritam Kotal and Rowilson Rodrigues
Midfielders: Eduardo Moya, Jeroen Lumu, Matias Mirabaje, Paulinho Dias, Seityasen Singh, Simranjeet Singh and Vinit Rai
Forwards: David Ngaihte, Guyon Fernandez, Kalu Uche, Romeo Fernandes, Lallianzuala Chhangte
Coach: Miguel Angel Portugal
After a terrible 2016-17 campaign, Brazilian legend Zico was shown the door as FC Goa roped in former Barcelona youth coach Sergio Lobera. Lobera has been quick to implement his style of play in the team as the Gaurs have a distinct Spanish flavour with as many as six Spanish players in the squad. The 33-year old winger Manuel Lanzarote has been impressive for the Gaurs in pre-season with four goals including a goal in their victory against Mohun Bagan. Goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani impressed for FC Goa last season despite the Gaurs finishing last and he was rewarded by being retained by the Goan side. The former Dempo man seems to have made an impression on his new teammates with teammate Bruno Pinheiro even going as far as to call him the best Indian goalkeeper in the league.
Goalkeepers: Laxmikant Kattimani, Bruno Colaco and Naveen Kumar
Defenders: Amey Ranawade, Bruno Pinheiro, Chinglensana Singh, Jovel Martins, Mohamed Ali, Narayan Das, Seriton Fernandes and Sergio Marin
Midfielders: Ahmed Jahouh, Anthony D’Souza, Brandon Fernandes, Edu Bedia, Mandar Rao, Manuel Arana, Manuel Lanzarote, Mohammad Yasir, Pratesh Shirodkar and Pronay Halder.
Forwards: Adrian Colunga, Ferran Corominas, Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh
Coach: Sergio Lobera
FC Pune City
Perennial pushovers Pune managed a coup by securing the signature of the 2016-17 Golden Boot winner Marcelinho as well as his Delhi teammate Kean Lewis. Ranko Popovic will be heavily reliant on the duo to lead the Pune attack. Ashique Kuruniyan returns to the side after a loan move to the third team of La Liga side Villarreal. Pune also boasts the upcoming Indian duo of Nim Dorjee Tamang and Isaac Vanmalsawma but it is to be seen if they are able to cement their place in the Pune starting lineup.
Goalkeepers: Vishal Kaith, Kamaljit Singh and Anuj Kumar
Defenders: Rafa Lopez, Damir Grgic, Nim Dorjee Tamang, Adil Khan, Pawan Kumar, Lalchhuanmawia, Wayne Vaz and Gurtej Singh
Midfielders: Jewel Raja, Marcos Tebar, Robertino Pugliara, Jonatan Lucca, Baljit Sahni, Isaac Vanmalsawma, Ashique Kuruniyan, Rohit Kumar, Harpreet Singh and Kean Lewis
Forwards: Diego Carlos, Emiliano Alfaro, Marcelinho, Ajay Singh
Coach: Ranko Popovic
The new kids on the block, Jamshedpur FC is owned by Tata Steel who also run the highly successful Tata Football Academy which has provided Indian football with many players including the likes of Renedy Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi, Subrata Paul and Robin Singh. JFC are also the only ISL team to play in its own stadium, the JRD Tata Sports Complex. The Men of Steel made some shrewd buys in the draft, signing the likes of Indian international Anas Edathodika, Subrata Paul Bikash Jairu, Mehtab Hossain and Souvik Chakraborty. The Men of Steel also snapped up ATK’s ISL winning centre-back Tiri and will be hoping for the Spaniard to form a formidable partnership with Anas at the heart of the defence.
Goalkeepers: Rafique Ali Sardar, Sanjiban Ghosh, Subrata Paul
Defenders: Andre Bikey, Anas Edathodika, Robin Gurung, Sairuat Kima, Shouvik Ghosh, Yumnam Raju, Tiri
Midfielders: Matheus Goncalves, Memo, Bikash Jairu, Mehtab Hossain, Souvik Chakraborty, Sameehg Doutie, Ishfaq Ahmed
Forwards: Kervens Belfort, Ashim Biswas, Farukh Chowdhary, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Siddharth Singh, Sumeet Passi, Izu Azuka
Coach: Steve Coppell
Kerala Blasters FC
After twice coming close to winning the ISL title, Kerala Blasters will be hoping that they would finally be able to go the distance this season. The Blasters made the signing of the season when they signed the former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov. To go with the Bulgarian’s acquisition, the Kochi side also signed their former player Iain Hume who is the ISL’s leading goalscorer. Another major signing is that of former United defender Wes Brown who will pair up with Sandesh Jhingan in the heart of the defence. Rene Meulensteen also has Indian internationals CK Vineeth and Jackichand Singh to complement the strike pairing of Berbatov and Hume but the lack of a quality midfield man may hurt the Blasters’ chances of winning the league.
Goalkeepers: Paul Rachubka, Sandip Nandy, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury
Defenders: Nemanja Lakić-Pešić, Wes Brown, Pritam Kumar Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Lalruatthara, Lalthakima, Rino Anto, Samuel Shadap
Midfielders: Milan Singh, Arata Izumi, Loken Meitei, Siam Hanghal, Ajith Sivan, Courage Pekuson, Jackichand Singh
Forwards: Karan Sawhney, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Iain Hume, CK Vineeth, Mark Sifneos, Dimitar Berbatov
Coach: René Meulensteen
Mumbai City FC
The Islanders retained Indian goalkeeper Amrinder Singh who won the Golden Glove award last season and also managed to resign their defensive pairing of Lucian Goian and Gerson Vieira. With the experienced duo of Raju Gaikwad and Mehrajuddin Wadoo as well as the young Davinder Singh at the full-back positions, Mumbai have a stable defence. In midfield, the Islanders have the Cameroonian journeyman Achille Emaná acting as the playmaker-in-chief and he will be ably supported by the young Indian duo of Sehnaj Singh and Abhinas Ruidas. Leading the Mumbai attack will be the Punjab-born striker Balwant Singh who will want to continue the good form that led him winning his first cap for India earlier in the year.
Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Arindam Bhattacharya, Kunal Sawant
Defenders: Lucian Goian, Marcio Rosario, Gerson Vieira, Raju Gaikwad, Davinder Singh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Aiborlang Khongjee, Biswajit Saha, Lalchhawnkima
Midfielders: Thiago Santos, Léo Costa, Achille Emaná, Sehnaj Singh, Rakesh Oram, Zakeer Mundampara, Sahil Tavora, Abhinas Ruidas, Sanju Pradhan
Forwards: Rafa Jorda, Everton Santos, Pranjal Bhumij, Balwant Singh
Coach: Alexandre Guimaraes
North East United FC
Representing the North East which is the hotbed of footballing talent in the country, NEUFC remain one of the only two teams who have not qualified for the playoffs. NEUFC will be looking to break that run and will look towards fellow northeast side Aizawl FC for inspiration. The Mizoram side shocked everyone by winning the I-League last season beating the likes of Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal along the way. The Highlanders are the underdogs this season but they have a strong Indian spine comprising the likes of Rowllin Borges, Lalrindika Ralte, Nirmal Chettri, Reagan Singh and Halicharan Narzary.
Goalkeepers: Rehenesh TP, Gurpreet Singh Chabhal, Ravi Kumar
Defenders: Abdul Hakku, Gursimral Gill, Nirmal Chettri, Reagan Singh, Robert Lalthlamuana, Sambinha, Jose Goncalves, Martin Diaz
Midfielders: Rowllin Borges, Lalrindika Ralte, Larempuia Fanai, Malemngamba Meitei, Sushil Meitei, Marcinho, Adilson Goiano, Halicharan Narzary
Forwards: Danilo, Luis Paez, Odair Fortes, Seminlen Doungel
Coach: Joao de Deus
Published Date: Nov 17, 2017 08:56 AM | Updated Date: Nov 17, 2017 09:23 AM