ATK Mohun Bagan vs Kerala Blasters: Preview and Prediction
Two teams who had contrasting fortunes last season will set up the curtain-raiser event for the eighth edition of the Indian Super League. While ATK Mohun Bagan is the runners-up of the 2020-21 ISL season, Kerala Blasters had a shambolic campaign that saw them finishing in 10th place.
The Tuskers have made changes aplenty to their roster and have roped in a new manager in Ivan Vukomanovic. While the Yellow Army embarks on a transition phase, sustainability will be the goal for ATK Mohun Bagan manager, Antonio Lopez Habas. The Spaniard has the team to achieve great success but he needs his players to implement that on the field. At his disposal, the Spaniard has a roster that can give any team a run for their money, but he would want his players to be at the top of their game from the very beginning.
How did they do last season?
ATK Mohun Bagan was exceptional in their last campaign but ended up not winning any silverware. They finished their league campaign with 12 wins and four draws and were tied on 40 with Mumbai City, but the Islanders lifted the shield owing to a superior goal difference. The same team then trounced the Kolkata-based outfit in the final.
Meanwhile, Kerala Blasters had a season to forget. They were marred by injuries, while many key players going through a rough phase at the same time derailed their season. Former manager Kibu Vicuna was sacked as the I-League winning manager could only get his team a 10th place finish, with only three wins and eight draws.
The Tuskers will now hope for the new dawn under Vukomanovic, but their performances in the Durand Cup earlier this season were far from convincing.
Head to Head Record
ATK Mohun Bagan emerged victoriously on both occasions they faced Kerala Blasters last season. The Green and Maroons started their campaign with a 1-0 win over the Kochi-based outfit, with talisman Roy Krishna finding the net for ATK Mohun Bagan.
In the reverse fixture, the Mariners once again got the better of the Blasters in a thrilling 3-2 win. Gary Hooper handed Kerala the early lead. with Costa Nhaimonesu doubling their lead in the second half. However, a fantastic strike from Marcelinho and a late second-half brace from Krishna earned the Mariners all three points.
Some reports coming out of the ATK Mohun Bagan camp suggest Krishna as a doubt for the curtain-raiser against Kerala Blasters. The Fijian marksman has picked up a knock, while Spanish central defender Tiri is also likely to miss this clash with some reports suggesting he will not be available for the first three matches.
Unlike the Mariners, the Tuskers will have their entire roster fit and ready for this epic clash. Vukomanovic generally sets his teams up in a 4-4-2 formation, but he could field a 4-2-3-1 setup in this match to counter his opponent’s tactics and style of play.
Predicted Starting Lineups
ATK Mohun Bagan: (4-2-3-1) Amrinder Singh; Ashutosh Mehta, Pritam Kotal, Carl McHugh, Subhasish Bose; Lenny Rodrigues, Joni Kauko; Manvir Singh, Hugo Boumous, Liston Colaco; David Williams.
Kerala Blasters: (4-2-3-1) Albino Gomes; Nishu Kumar, Marco Leskovic, Abdul Hakku, Denechandra Meetei; Jeakson Singh, Harmanjot Singh Khabra; Rahul KP, Adrian Luna, Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Alvaro Vazquez.
The Mariners start as favorites in almost every game they feature in but uncertainty over Roy Krishna and Tiri’s availability has made this affair harder to call. Kerala Blasters will sense an opportunity to start their season on a positive note by beating last season’s finalists.
Though, the Blasters also have a lot of new faces who are not accustomed to playing in India along with the new gaffer getting the team to understand his ideas and philosophy. On the contrary, even if Habas does not have the services of two of his trusted stalwarts, he still has the core group from the last season intact with some new faces who have plenty of ISL experience in Hugo Boumous, Amrinder Singh, and Liston Colaco.
With the emotions and vibes of a season opener but also with all its hesitancy and rustiness, it might be a close game with both sides coming hard at each other. A 2-1 win for the Mariners over the Blasters is the most probable outcome.