There is plenty at stake for many of the teams as the Hero Indian Super League is set to resume after an extensive 40-day winter break.
Now, after doing duty for India at the Asian Cup where India missed qualification to the pre-quarter finals by a whisker, players have returned to their respective clubs and will be keen to get going immediately. There is so much to achieve, and it all starts on Friday when ATK face Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
The play-off positions are up for grabs with a third of the season still left to be played. Though league leaders Bengaluru FC have all but secured a top-four spot, the same cannot be said for the challengers. Mumbai City, Jamshedpur FC, FC Goa, ATK and NorthEast United are all fighting for the remaining three spots.
The long break has provided the chasing pack with enough time to regroup. Form and momentum will now no longer be applicable.
Several teams have also made use of the winter transfer window which opened on January 1 and runs till the end of the month.
In fact, ATK, NorthEast United and FC Goa have all recruited two players each to address their concerns.
The wait â�³ is almost over as your heroes return!#HeroISL resumes on 2âƒ£5âƒ£th January.
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) January 22, 2019
FC Goa were in a bit of trouble before the break and have just four points from their previous four games.Â But they acted during the transfer window to ensure they do not suffer a mid-season slump by bringing in Moroccan striker Zaid Krouch and goalkeeper Naveen Kumar.
â€œI am very happy to see Naveen back. He is a player that knows our style of football and for us, it is very important that our goalkeeper is aware of that,â€� said head coach Sergio Lobera.
Zaid Krouch, who played under Lobera and alongside Hugo Boumous and Ahmed Jahouh, brings more depth to Loberaâ€™s attack which has run into some trouble whenever Ferran Corominas and Edu Bedia go missing.
NorthEast United, after making a terrific start to the season, have gone off the boil and are winless in the last four games with a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of FC Goa hard to digest.
They have brought in full-back Shouvik Ghosh and Greek forward Panagiotis Triadis for the injured Augustine Okrah.
The Highlanders have never made the ISL play-offs and Eelco Schattorie clearly does not want their bid to peter out. The alacrity shown in roping in the versatile Ghosh, who can play across the backline, and Triadis show they have learnt from past mistakes.
ATK, on the other hand, are sixth and four points behind NorthEast United. The team has struggled offensively and scored the least goals among all ISL teams.
Steve Coppell has gone on to recruit Edu Garcia, who was brilliant for Bengaluru FC last season. They have also signed Pritam Kotal from Delhi Dynamos. The marauding full-back brings solidity and his deliveries from the right wing could be a potential weapon in their attacking arsenal.
â€œThe additions made to the squad are positive and we are quite excited to bring the new players on board. We hope they can deliver and excite the fans through their performances on the pitch. We look forward to a bright start in 2019,â€� said Coppell.
Though Mumbai City and Jamshedpur FC have not signed any players in the window, they will fancy their chances of landing a top-four spot too.
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Source: Matchday Frolics