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ISL: Analysing Kerala Blaster's Indian Contingent ahead of the Indian Super League 2021-22 season

The yellow army finished 10th last season in the Indian Super League, and lack of experience amongst Indian youngsters was touted as a reason for the disappointment. With a fully fit Nishu Kumar, and an experienced Harmanjot Khabra in the ranks what should we expect from the club this campaign?

ISL: Analysing Kerala Blasters Indian Contingent ahead of the Indian Super League 2021-22 season

Kerala Blasters Indian Contingent Analysis


Siddharth Mishra

Updated: 1 Nov 2021 9:29 AM GMT

The two-time Indian Super League finalists Kerala Blasters have been unable to reach the playoffs for the last four seasons, and this year under new coach Ivan Vukomanovic, the club will be hoping for a change in mindset which would lead to a change in results.

Kerala Blasters have made some eye-boggling signings this summer to bolster their attack and defense. Alvaro Vasquez will the striker everyone will have their eyes on because of his sheer experience of playing the top leagues in Europe, while they have also signed top quality foreign players in Marko Leskovic, Enes Sipovic, Adrian Luna, Jorge Pereyra Diaz, and Chencho Gyltshen. Last year the squad under Kibu Vicuna was young, and the team lacked experienced Indian players to drive the team, and this was one of the reasons the club suffered on the pitch.

Harmanjot Khabra, a two-time Indian Super League winner has been added up the ranks for experience and leadership, while the club has added youngsters like Sanjeev Stalin, Ruviah Hormipam, and Vincy Baretto to add depth to this squad. There were notable departures of all their six foreign players, and young Indian players like Rohit Kumar, and 2017-18 Emerging Player of the year Lalruatthara being two major names. Let us look at the positives and negatives of the Indian contingent of the KBFC squad.


The Indian core of the team remains intact, and the addition of Harmanjot Khabra can be a key card in their success this season. Khabra is a warrior on the field and goes all out every time he steps on the pitch. Many might argue that he might be past his prime, but he can be a player youngsters can learn from, and he transitions the winning mentality into the team. Khabra can operate as a right-back, defensive, and even a holding midfielder. It will be interesting to see how Ivan uses Khabra in this KBFC team.

The return of Sanjiv Stalin to Indian football after his stint in Portugal is something all Indian football fans have an eye on. He can become a starter in the KBFC team, and give direct competition to captain Jessel Carneiro at the left-back position.

The presence of Indian center backs in Abdul Hakku, Sandeep Singh, Ruviah and Bijoy, gives Ivan a ton of options at the center of the defense to combine with Sipovic and Leskovic. No other club has an array of center-backs like this.


The weaknesses were seen in the Durand Cup when the club could not perform to the fullest and had a disappointing run. It was a short glimpse of the task Ivan has ahead to put his processes in place.

Players like Rahul KP and Jeakson Singh are entering their third Indian Super League season, while Sahal enters his fifth season with the team. The players will no more be labeled as young because of their experience of playing in the ISL, and the national team. It's their time to step up their game and become the core part of Ivan's starting eleven.

Nishu Kumar is coming back after a long-term injury, and his position in the squad is not yet fixed. Even though he can play on both the wings, last year Kibu made him play at the right-back position, but we all know that Nishu thrives on the left. He will have to compete with Sanjiv and Jessel to play in his favorite position. A similar question arises for Sahal Adul Samad as well, he is an attacking midfielder, but most of the time is played on the wings. It looks like Adrian Luna will be the player taking the creative responsibilities which also means that Sahal might play on the left wing, that is if he is considered a started by Ivan.

With the lack of Indian left-wingers, Sreekuttan, Rahul, and Setiyasen are the natural right-wingers in the team, while Chencho is the only out and out left-winger. In a 4-2-3-1 setup that we expect Ivan Vukomanovic to play, Chencho might not be a regular which means either Sahal plays on the left or one of Rahul or Vincy shifts to the right. Ivan is a shrewd tactician and will be looking to fill the gaps over this crack in multiple ways.


Kerala Blasters definitely have a team that will be ready to compete in the future because of the number of young players on the team. Very few clubs in Indian have this amount of flavor of local talent in the squad. Here are there three young players we feel you should keep an eye on in this season.

1. Sanjeev Stalin

Sanjeev Stalin comes back to Indian football after a gap of one year. He was an integral part of the Indian team in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup and assisted for the only goal scored by the Blue Tigers. He was signed by Portuguese club Aves, and he played for the U-19 and U-23 teams. He then signed for a Portuguese third division club Sertanense for the 2020–21 season, and now is back to Indian football. The 20-year-old can either play as a left-back or a left-winger, and it will be interesting to see how Ivan utilizes him in the squad.

2. Vincy Baretto

The 21-year-old winger was an integral part of Gokulam Kerala's I-League triumph and soon was wrapped off by Blasters for this ISL season. The goa-born winger started his career with the FC Goa reserve team and will be making his debut in the ISL with the Kerala Blasters. He might become a starter but they will definitely give the KBFC wingers a run for their money.

3. Ayush Adhikari

The 20-year-old Delhi-born midfielder made one appearance for the team last season against Hyderabad FC, and this season he will get more opportunities in the team. He is a central holding midfielder who can either operate as a number six or a number eight. Ayush is a player who loves having the ball at his feet and dictating play with his splendid vision.

Kerala Blasters on paper have a good squad this season, Ivan Vukomanovic has to install a winning mentality to the club so that they finally reach the playoffs in the ISL for the first time in five years. Who are the other young talent that KBFC has that we have missed out on?

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