A start of a new football season is set to grab eyeballs the third time around. As India gears up to closely follow the Indian Super League season starting October 1, there are a few teams that hold a special place in the series and can very well be touted as the champions of the league.
This season brings about a swerve of new players – some local talents, international biggies with a mix of former players and a whole lot of preparation into quality performance on both domestic and international grounds.
If you are an avid ISL fan, here’s a look at some of the teams and players who appear to be the strongholds for this season:
Atletico de Kolkata (ATK)
2014 marked ATK as the leading defenders with victory in four games and third rank in the league series. The next year (2015), however, witnessed some losses on their part albeit reaching the second position in the qualifiers.
This year will witness a few changes in the high-spirited team, not only in its players, but also in the choice of the stadium. While the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium has been chosen as the ‘ideal spot’ for all their matches this season, Jose Francisco Molina, Spain and Atletico Madrid’s former Goalkeeper, is the team’s Head Coach this time, replacing Antonio Lopez Habas, the Coach for the first two seasons. Shilton Paul is another new addition to the team in the role of the Goalkeeper.
Iain Hume, the mass goal-scorer last season for ATK and Helder Postiga, the marquee player of the team who scored 27 goals in 72 games for Portugal in two World Cups and three European Championships are the safest bets and the most reliable players for the team this season. Defending ATK this season like the past two seasons, Arnab Mondal, India’s international player is another key footballer we are looking forward to.
Like always, the Dynamos have roped in big names yet again this season. Former Italian international and World-Cup winner, Gianluca Zambrotta, being the team’s new Head Coach, there is much to hope for, ahead of the season. Among the few foreign signings of the Dynamos, the centre-back, Ruben Gonzalez Rocha is a promising player with a strong previous career with the Real Madrid Academy and high hopes of strengthening Delhi’s defence in coordination with Anas Edathodika.
Marquee player, Florent Malouda, a performing winger, can also be an efficient mentor to other young joiners like him in the team, the likes of Kean Lewis who is a dynamic attacking midfielder, has acquired top skills of ‘fast pace’ and ‘scoring goals from a long range’ and is trained with the biggies in US, Mexico and I-League.
Looks like, the team is all geared up to stand up to their new manager’s commitment to winning the league this season.
Mumbai City FC
With some high-profile signings such as Diego Forlan, a legend with Uruguay and Atletico Madrid, and retention of dynamic players like Sunil Chettri, the first Indian to score a hat trick, Mumbai’s team looks strong. Manipuri left-winger, Jackichand Singh with his dribbling abilities and aggressive pace, is a new addition for Mumbai City -- one who has been the I-League’s best player in 2014-15. Playing along with some of the best, there is much to witness this ISL, when it comes to Mumbai City FC. Alexandre Guimares, the new Manager for Mumbai is further expected to make a strong impact unlike the previous editions of ISL.
With some best performing ISL players like Jeje Lapekhlua to their fold, who scored top goals in the last season and Marquee player, John Arne who will be playing his second ISL season, Chennaiyin’s play moves look promising as the team has turned tables drastically in their favour since their three losses in five games last season. While the first ISL season passed them as favourites, the second season actually proved their mettle with victory in four consecutive games, big scores against Kerala, Delhi and Mumbai and ultimately a place in the finals. Winners of the second season with a 3-2 win against FC Goa, all eyes will be set on Chennaiyin FC once again.
With much excitement and anxiety building up ahead of the tournament, who do you choose to follow?
This is a partnered post.