ATK MOHUN BAGAN FC

ATK Mohun Bagan, Kerala Blasters to kick off ISL 2021

The Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 is finally set to begin with a captivating tie on the cards as ATK Mohun Bagan take on Kerala Blasters on Friday, 19 November 2021.

A similar opener had taken place previously, as last year’s runner-up ATKMB face former finalist Kerala Blasters FC. Needless to mention, either side will look to start the season on a high.

The Mariners stand as one of the competition’s favorites this term, possessing a lavish and multi-talented squad. In the other corner, the side from the South will herald a new age under the tutelage of Serbian-Belgian gaffer Ivan Vukomanovic.

Any football fan will tell you that when these two teams take the pitch, sparks are bound to fly. ATKMB v KBFC is sure to be an explosive tie on opening day.

The Stakes

A majority think that the opening matches in a new league campaign are not all that paramount. However, for a side such as ATK Mohun Bagan, that is not the case.

Following a topsy-turvy season and Mumbai City grabbing the title, the Mariners are eager to right the wrongs. They will look to build an unassailable lead at the top of the table quickly and get ahead of the pack from the get-go.

This will be their first competitive tie since their 0-6 loss to FC Nasaf and it will be key. Losing or drawing can hamper momentum from the very start. Habas’ team must exploit their strengths and demonstrate their reputation as title contenders by putting up a commanding display.

For Kerala Blasters FC, this might be their much-anticipated campaign for redemption. Under the new coach, there has been a host of changes – structurally and squad-wise as well. A fresh foreign division and exciting youngsters give fans a lot to look forward to.

However, it all depends what they do on the field. A defeat in the opener could damage the side’s confidence. The Blasters must remain calm and follow Vukomanovic’s game plan, work hard and disallow ATK space. Keeping to this pointers should get them a win and establish them as a force in the league.

Appetizing facts

ATK Mohun Bagan boss Antonio Habas has witnessed 4 opening fixtures previously and has registered 3 wins. As it happens, the loss he faced was against the Blasters in the 2019-20 season.

ATKMB have let in the least number of goals in the league stages last term, conceding 13 goals in 20 matches.

The Mariners defeated Kerala in their meetings last term. They edged the opening game of the season by a slim 1-0, prior to recording a 3-2 win in the reverse fixture.

Previously, the former ATK FC took on the Blasters 14 times in the League. Out of the 14, the side from Kolkata grabbed 5 wins (with 2 ISL finals) while Kerala Blasters registered 4 wins.

ATK Mohun Bagan will face Kerala Blasters at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa
ATK Mohun Bagan will face Kerala Blasters at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa

Players to watch

Hugo Boumous (ATK Mohun Bagan) – Making his ISL debut for ATK Mohun Bagan will be Hugo Boumous. The midfielder was brilliant for Bagan in their AFC Cup run. He aided them grab wins in a few matches with his eye-catching creativity, contributing a few goals himself.

The Mariners signed the Moroccan to set-back Mumbai City and also to add much-needed spark in their midfield. All eyes will be on Boumous to prove himself. Nonetheless, he flourishes when pressured and will be eager to make a vehement debut.

Alvaro Vazquez (Kerala Blasters) – Like ATK, Kerala Blasters will also have a debutant raring to go. Alvaro Vazquez has been a steal for the Blasters, but he requires to step up to the occasion now. He brings a lot of experience to the side, having played over 150 La Liga games.

Vazquez is an adaptable forward, able to operate down the middle and also on the left-wing. He will look to utilize his sharp movement, skillful feet on the ball and link-up style to engineer alluring attacking moves. The Spaniard is most formidable in the final third and could use his splendid finishing ability to create problems for the Mariners.

Lineups

ATKMB Playing XI: Amrinder Singh (GK), Kauko, McHugh, Boumous, Singh, Bose, Colaco, Kotal (C), Krishna, Tangri, Rodrigues

Subs: Avilash, David, Prabir, Ashutosh, Sumit, Bidyananda, Kiyan, Rana Abhishek

KBFC Playing XI: Albino, Khabra, Bijoy, Leskovic, Jessel (C), Jeakson, Sahal, Rahul KP, Luna, Pereyra Diaz, Vazquez

Subs: Gill, Sandeep, Denechandra, Hakku, Ayush, Puitea, Prasanth, Seityasen, Chencho

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