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ISL: 5 Things to Expect from ATK Mohun Bagan vs Kerala Blasters clash

ATK Mohun Bagan will be taking on Kerala Blasters for yet another curtain-raiser clash of the Indian Super League 2021-22

Antonio Habas will take on Ivan Vukomanovic in the inaugural match of Indian Super League 2021-22
Antonio Habas will take on Ivan Vukomanovic in the inaugural match of Indian Super League 2021-22

Atrayo Bhattacharya

Updated: 18 Nov 2021 10:47 AM GMT

The Indian Super League is back and we have last season's finalists ATK Mohun Bagan taking on Kerala Blasters for yet another curtain-raiser clash. The two teams met each other on the opening night last season and the Mariners came on top. Therefore the Yellow Army will be looking to change that narrative as they embark on a new journey under the tutelage of their new coach Ivan Vukomanovic.

It will be interesting to see how Antonio Habas lines up for yet another season. Some people feel that he has reached his saturation point with this team and should look for a new challenge, while others consider him the anchor of this ship. It will be fascinating to see how the Spaniard reinvigorate himself ahead of a new campaign.

Alvaro Vazquez to lead the lines for Kerala Blasters

Kerala Blasters had a forgetful last season, and with a new head coach and a new set of foreign players, the Blasters are looking to impress their fans this season. One of their stars to watch this season has to be Spanish marksman Alvaro Vazquez. Several ISL clubs chased the Spaniard but ultimately the Blasters snapped him up.

The 30-year-old has featured in over 150 La Liga matches and is easily one of the best forwards in the league on paper. Vazquez needs to translate that on the pitch and if he does that then there is no stopping Kerala Blasters this season. Apart from his time with Espanyol and Getafe in the Spanish top tier he also had a stint with Swansea City in the Premier League. Although it was only for a season, that experience of playing in the English top-flight will be immense.

First glimpse of Krishna-Boumous partnership in the ISL

Hugo Boumous's transfer to ATK Mohun Bagan has to be the biggest and most impactful signing this season. The Franch attacking midfielder has every trick in the book to outwit defenders and when he is paired with someone like Roy Krishna his effectiveness increases tenfolds. We have already seen Boumous and Krishna combine in the AFC Cup, but the Frenchman was not at his physical best and even Krishna was a little underprepared.

Roy Krishna in action against Kerala Blasters FC; (Image Source: ATKMB Media)

So the fans will only get the real essence of the duo in the ISL. Boumous, known for his progression and chance creation, will join hands with a prolific finisher like Krishna to raise hell for the opposition defenders. Some people are already saying that Boumous was the missing piece in the jigsaw for Antonio Lopez Habas last season. Only time will tell how well these two players gel with each other this season.

Ivan Vukomanovic to opt for an attacking formation

The Serbian tactician is known for his fascination with attacking football and the way he has picked his foreign players it seems that he will opt to attack right from the get-go. Vukomanovic's preferred formation is 4-4-2 and hence he will get to see a lot of Vazquez and Diaz combining with Adrian Luna. Chencho Gyletshen and Rahul KP also coming into the mix.

Vukomanovic's preferred formation is 4-4-2; (Image Source: KBFC Media)

It will be interesting to see how he finds the right balance considering they do not have a foreign centre defensive midfielder who can control the tempo of the game. It will be an area of concern but Vukomanovic will hope that the likes of Jeakson Singh, Harmanjot Khabra and others will step up in that role. Overall it will be interesting to see how he finds the right balance for the Blasters and takes them to greater heights in the upcoming season.

Four manned defence for ATK Mohun Bagan

ATK Mohun Bagan had a watertight defence last season, but they fell short against Mumbai City FC twice. This season they have lost one of their best defenders in Sandesh Jhingan and have not managed to replace him. Therefore defence has to be the area of concern for the Mariners this season. Apart from Tiri, the Mariners do not have a designated centre back. There are players like Pritam Kotal, Subhashis Bose, Deepak Tangri and Sumit Rathi who can slot in that defensive role. However, none of them will be able to fill the void left by Jhingan.

So Habas may opt for a four-man backline unlike last season as the Spaniard may look to have more balance in the middle. Playing with a double pivot of Lenny Rodrigues and Carl McHugh in front of the backline will allow them to express themselves and provide more stability. Both Lenny and McHugh are good at recycling possession and the latter can even drop in as be the third centre back if the situation demands.

A busy night for defenders

There is a lot of similarity in team building for Kerala Blasters and ATK Mohun Bagan. While the Blasters had a tough time with their shaky defence last season, the Mariners were rock solid at the back. But a lot has changed in these months and ATK Mohun Bagan are looking to find a player who can compliment Tiri and play beside him in the heart of the defence. So if they make any mistake players like Jorge Pereyra Diaz or Alavaro Vazquez will leave no chance to pounce on. Similarly, Krishna and Boumous are also very dangerous and will be a challenge for the likes of Marco Leskovic and Enes Sipovic.

So it is supposed to be a busy night for defenders with so many top-class forwards featuring for both teams. it will be interesting to see how both defences turn up to the challenge.


The Indian Super League will be live on Star Sports Network. Indian football fans can live stream the matches on Disney+ Hotstar.

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