The Hero Indian Super League is back, and squaring up for a royal challenge in the opening battle will be former finalists Kerala Blasters and ATK at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday.Â
After a poor campaign that has seen them collect just one win, the break could not have come at a better time for Kerala Blasters. They are on a 11-match winless run, their worst in history. The Men in Yellow subsequently parted ways with coach David James and appointed former NorthEast United manager Nelo Vingada.
Under the Portuguese tactician, Blasters will look for a fresh start, both in terms of results and style. Blasters lacked imagination in the attacking third under James and fans will be hoping Vingada can spark some changes upfront.
â€œAfter the feedback I received from the staff, the conclusion is that the level of the players is better than what is being shown. We have to understand why the team lost in the last minutes. Most defeats are coming in the last 20 minutes,â€� said Vingada.
â€œIn the remaining six games, we have to win. We have to win our confidence and the respect of our fans. Opponents must feel that they are playing a team with another attitude,â€� added the coach, whose side is yet to win a game at home and havenâ€™t kept a cleansheet in front of home fans.
However, ATK are the only team Blasters managed to defeat this season, in the reverse fixture.
— Seiminlen Doungel (@Seiminlen_9) January 25, 2019
Kerala have a couple of new players in Baoringdao Bodo and Nongdamba Naorem. The young wingers will be hoping to get some much-needed game time and add flair to Keralaâ€™s wing-play. Meanwhile, Halicharan Narzary and C.K.Vineeth have left on loan to Chennaiyin FC.
Sandesh Jhingan will be key in defence as they face an ATK side boosted by the return of Kalu Uche and the addition of Edu Garcia. However, it remains to be seen if his partner Anas Edathodika, who suffered an injury while on Asian Cup duty, will be fit for this game.
ATK have six games to book their berth in the play-offs, three of them against opponents who are placed higher on the table. This makes their clash against Kerala all the more important as three points would propel them to the fifth position.
â€œI have a huge admiration for Kerala. I am always mindful of what is going on in Kerala. I look at them as a team who have a got a new coach.Â It is inevitable that the players would everything to impress their new coach. They are a team with very good individuals,â€� said coach Steve Coppell.
The Kolkata giants have been amongst the most active sides in the transfer window. Edu Garcia, who was with Bengaluru FC last term before leaving for a Chinese sojourn, will add creativity to the midfield while Ucheâ€™s presence will provide focus to their attack.
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Source: Matchday Frolics