Kochi always attracts sell-outs Kerala Blasters games. The amount of support the Manjappada provide the team is always a sight to behold. And to subdue 55,000 fans is no easy job. However, ATK seem to have done that a lot over the last five years and look all set to extend their head-to-head lead over Blasters even further. ATK now have a 4-2 lead in head-to-head in the 12 times they have faced each other with 6 draws.
Kerala Blasters vs ATK has always been a contest with very high stakes. Having faced each other twice in the finals, resulting in consecutive wins for ATK, it is one of the very few ties in the ISL which has some mutual team history. Kerala Blasters fans always look to triumph over the side from Kolkata courtesy their two losses to the same side in the finals. While an ATK fan sees this fixture to further stamp their authority over the Kerala side, an even more important contest if it is played in Kochi.
After two disappointing seasons, the RP Sanjiv-Goenka Group-owned side has invested a lot in the team this season. They have wrapped up some of the top names in the Indian football scene hoping to turn their tables both on and off the field. A team star-studded with the likes of Roy Krishna, David Williams, Edu Garcia, Carl McHugh, Jobby Justin, Michael Soosairaj and Javier Hernandez is expected to do very well in this season if Antonio Lopez Habas plays his cards right.
Kerala Blasters also have a significant change in their team. They brought in experienced head coach Eelco Schattorie at the helm and also have signed up several talented youngsters. Sergio Cidoncha, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Sahal Abdul Samad and Mario Arques form a formidable attacking line-up.
We interacted with an ATK fan Sounab Nag about the possible outcome of the game, his team’s chances this season and much more. Excerpts :
Q: How is ATK’s squad looking for the new season?
A: After the disappointing two seasons, this season under our favourite gaffer Antonio Lopez Habbas, the squad looks stunning. Right from the heavyweight Roy Krishna to the young sensation Anil Chavan, the squad looks very balanced and we are optimistic about our chances.
Q: Which players are you looking forward to this season?
A: The definite answer would be the A-Leauge Golden Boot winner Roy Krishna but the speciality of the team this year is the balance and apart from him the team has a number of match-winners like David Williams, Javi Hernandez, Edu Garcia, Michael Soosairaj, Komal Thatal. The fans are charged up as well.
Q: What is your realistic aim for the campaign?
A: Honestly, the aim is to support the team and encourage the players and motivate other fans to come in numbers to the stadium. In fact, when the team is playing away from home, Social Media is always a great option to show your love and support for the team.
Q: How do you think Kerala Blasters will fare this season?
A: I think they have a good side, few new signings have made their team a strong side.
Q: Which players do you fear the most this Sunday?
A: I think we do not have a reason to fear.
Q: Where will the key battles take place?
A: Regarding the first match, it is going to be an electrifying atmosphere in Kerala. Their fans are loud and are the only key factor to tackle out for us. If our players play their usual game, it will be a night to celebrate here in Kolkata.
Q: Finally, what is your prediction for the season-opener?
A: I would like to keep it simple. We are winning it by a minimum of two goals.
Well, if the predictions and the expectations sees the light of the day, we can only know after the game. The game kicks-off at 7.30 PM Local Time at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi after the season’s opening ceremony.