Hyderabad FC dark horses to spring a surprise
India’s first division football season is a short one, but for the four months or so that it lasts, the Indian Super League provides the football enthusiasts with jam-packed and continuous enthralling action. The eighth edition of India’s premier football competition will commence from 19th November, and we can expect this season to be more exciting than the last one, with almost every team looking evenly matched.
While the big boys of the league like ATK Mohun Bagan have managed to retain their core, a few midfield clubs like Hyderabad FC and Jamshedpur FC have also made a statement in the transfer market by acquiring the services of some renowned players.
Let us have an in-depth look at what we can expect in the upcoming season of ISL.
The Usual Suspects – Which teams are most likely to win the competition?
ATK Mohun Bagan might have missed lifting the trophy last season by a whisker, losing out to Mumbai City FC in the final, they are very likely to challenge for the crown this season as well, with renewed vigour and zeal.
Spanish tactician Antonio Lopez Habas has retained his core from last season, while he also has bolstered his squad with a few experienced signings. Ashutosh Mehta will add versatility to the defence, as he can slot in either as a right-back or as a centre-back. Having played in this year’s UEFA European Championship, Joni Kauko will add experience to their squad. The Kolkata-based team has also managed to weaken their nearest rivals, Mumbai City FC, by signing French midfielder Hugo Boumous.
Besides ATK Mohun Bagan, reigning champions Mumbai City FC are among the favourites to lift the title. The Islanders might have lost Boumous and their manager, Sergio Lobera, they also have made shrewd signings to have all bases covered. Their new head coach, Des Buckingham has worked as an assistant at some well-known clubs, while last season’s Golden Boot winner, Igor Angulo will also be seen plying his trade for the Islanders.
The Underdogs – These teams can catch everyone by surprise
Despite not having a particularly strong roster, Hyderabad FC did really well to finish in fifth place last season. Having made some bold signings, they are likely to be in the reckoning for the top four this season.
Their manager, Manolo Marquez Roca has invested heavily in experience, especially experience of playing in India. Among their new signings, Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche has been in India since 2018, Spanish midfielder Edu Garcia won this trophy in the 2019/20 edition, while centre-back Juanan won the 2018-19 instalment of the competition.
Like Hyderabad, Jamshedpur can also trouble the big boys this time around. They have also added a few renowned foreigners to their ranks, in the likes of Eli Sabia and Jordan Murray. Both of these players did well for their respective clubs in the last edition of the competition.
Match 1: ATK Mohun Bagan vs Kerala Blasters FC
Last year’s finalists ATK are favourites to win this with odds of 1.66. They are a well-oiled unit with a good attack line up against a suspect Kerala Blasters side that tend to blow hot and cold.
Match 2: Bengaluru FC vs Northeast United FC
Bengaluru FC have a strong midfield while Northeast United FC will test them with their own counterattacking football. This could be a close tussle with Bengaluru FC just about edging Northeast, the odds of which stand at 2.56.
Match 3: SC East Bengal vs Jamshedpur FC
Finishing fifth last season, Jamshedpur FC will be out to make amends with a strong showing, but will be tested by a strong SC East Bengal side who are favourites to win. Back them at 2.22 to win this game!
Watch out for these players
The leading goal-scorer of the last season, Igor Angulo has joined the reigning champions Mumbai City FC for the upcoming season. He had big boots to fill at his former club, FC Goa, given that he was the replacement of one of the more elegant strikers to have ever graced this league – Ferran Corominas. Angulo, however, exceeded all expectations, by netting 14 goals in 21 appearances in the league.
Like last season, the Spanish goal-machine will be in a race for the Golden Boot alongside ATK Mohun Bagan’s talismanic frontman, Roy Krishna. The Fiji international missed the trophy by the narrowest of margins last season. Like Angulo, he too had netted 14 goals, but he featured in 23 games for ATK Mohun Bagan, two more than the striker who eventually took the award home. Besides the fight for the championship, the individual battle between these two remarkable strikers will make the league even more exciting.
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