Consistency is important in sports. Having consistency in a sports franchise/team wins you games, which in turn wins you tournaments. Going into this season, Kerala Blasters will be eyeing consistency as they take on the newly emerged ATK Mohun Bagan in the Indian Super League 2020-21 season opener at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim, Goa on Friday.
Since, the inception of ISL, Kerala Blasters have lacked consistency. After entering the finals in 2014 and 2016, the Kochi franchise has seen its fair share of chopping and changing. Six seasons on and the Blasters have seen nine different managers. The constant changing of managers and players in the side has severely hurt the Kochi-based team.
Ahead of 2020-21 season, the Blasters hired Kibu Vicuna to lead the team this season. The 2019-20 I-league winning coach, led Mohun Bagan to their first title in five years and saw them lose only a solitary game. The Blasters management and fans will be hoping to see the team do well under Vicuna’s leadership this season. Ahead of this season, the Blasters squad had to revamp their squad with key players – Sandesh Jhinghan, Raphael Messi Bouli and Bartholomew Ogbeche – leaving the club at the end of last season. Blasters signed Aussie forward Jordan Murray, English striker Gary Hooper, Argentine midfielder Facundo Pereyra, Spanish defensive midfielder Vicente Gomes, Indian full back Nishu Kumar, Burkinabé centre back Bakary Kone. The Blasters also signed goalkeepers Prabhsukhran Singh Gill and Albino Gomes. With these signing, the side looks like a well-balanced team this season. On Wednesday, the team announced, Sergio Cidoncha, Costa Nhamoinesu and Jessek Carneiro as their captains for 2020-21 season.
Meanwhile, ATK Mohun Bagan began a new chapter in the history of Indian Football when I-League champions Mohun Bagan merged with three-time ISL winners ATK FC to become ATK Mohun Bagan earlier this year. ATKMB has retained most of the core players from the ATK’s 2019-20 championship winning side. ATKMB have stuck with coach Antonio Lopez Habas, who has led erstwhile ATK to two titles (2014 and 2020). Going into this season, ATK made some smart signings with the likes of Manvir Singh, Sandesh Jhinghan and Subhasish Bose. ATKMB’s strikers David Williams and Roy Krishna had a deadly partnership last season and will be keen to continue where they left off last season. Former Blaster and ATKMB’s latest signee Sandesh will be partnering with Tiri and Pritam Kotal to form ATKMB’s new back three.
It will be interesting to see how the both teams fare with no home ground advantage, no fan presence at the stadiums, shorter pre-season and bio-bubble environment due to current Covid-19 situation. Both teams will want to get on the points table with Friday’s opener.