The Indian Super League returns to action with a blockbuster opening as Kerala Blasters host ATK at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. Both teams come into this match on the back of disappointing outings during the first half of the campaign.
The Blasters suffered an uncharacteristically poor first half of the campaign, winning only match in 12. After a series of disappointing results, Kerala parted ways with then head coach David James in December. Under new manager Nelo Vingada, the Men in Yellow will be hoping to get back on track and deliver impressive results during the business end of the campaign. Kerala have an inferior head-to-head to ATK, their only victory of the campaign came against ATK in the first match of the season.
The Blasters will be without CK Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary, who have joined Chennaiyin FC on loan. Sandesh Jhingan had an impressive spell with the Indian national team at the AFC Asian Cup and will be hoping to replicate his fine form for Kerala. Despite Lalthuammawia Ralte’s addition to the squad from FC Goa, Dheeraj Singh is expected to hold the fort between the sticks at the back. In midfield, talented prospect Sahal Abdul Samad will most likely line-up alongside Nikola Krcmarevic to try and stifle ATK’s creative maestros. Matej Poplatnik and Slavisa Stojanovic got on the scoresheet during Kerala’s victory over ATK earlier in the campaign. If they can find their feet and combine well, we might lay witness to a flurry of goals on Friday.
While they might not have had the most prolific season so far, ATK still have a fighting chance of making the knockout stages. With 16 points from 12 matches, Steve Coppell’s side need to step up their game if they have any hope of progressing further. The Kolkata side have been busy in the transfer window, adding former Bengaluru FC player Edu Garcia and Delhi Dynamos right-back Pritam Kotal to their ranks. Garcia’s arrival could be the turning point of the season. During his time with Bengaluru, the Spaniard firmly established himself as one of the most creative outlets in the league. If he can live up to his lofty standards, we might see Coppell’s men finish the season on a high. Top marksman Kalu Uche is also returning from injury and will add the much-needed firepower up front.
ATK are the favourites on paper to take all three points from this encounter, given their superior form this season. With a rich array of foreign talent, which includes John Johnson, Gerson Vieira, Andre Bikey and Manuel Lanzarote, the two-time Hero ISL champions have the ability to cause Kerala all sorts of problems.
Content Courtesy: www.indiansuperleague.com
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Updated Date: Jan 25, 2019 21:57:11 IST