ISL 2021 kicks off six days later as Kerala Blasters lock horns with arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan on 19th November. The Tuskers have prepared well for the league with a long pre-season under their belts. Despite a disappointing run in the Durand Cup, the team looks strong and would be keen for the ISL.
It was yet another season to forget for the Kochi-based club last time around. Under Kibu Vicuna, they managed to have just three wins along with eight draws and nine losses in 20 matches. A lack of preparation was the main factor last season. But this time, the squad looks ahead for a better season.
Established on 27 May 2014, Kerala Blasters has been one of the most popular clubs in Asia thanks to their enormous fanbase. However, they have had only had two good seasons, back in 2014 and 2016, where they lost to ATK after reaching the finals.
Ivan Vukomanovic was announced as the new head coach for the 2021-22 season. The Serbian gaffer has experience playing in Europe as well as coaching some clubs such as Standard Liege, Slovan Bratislava and Apollon Limassol. Last season, the main concern was about the leaky defence, which conceded 33 goals. However, this time around, the experience of Marko Leskovic (who signed from Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb) and Enes Sipovic would be key.
Vukomanovic has brought in an attacking style of play sticking to the recently tested 4-4-2 formation by the Kerala club. New recruits have done well so far for them and the Blasters have had a mixed pre-season. Let’s now have a look at the 30-member officially announced squad.
ISL 2021 Kerala Blasters : Squad
Kerala Blasters have added a good mix of youth and experience but the balance shifts towards the former section. The foreign contingent includes Enes Sipovic (who joined from Chennaiyin FC), Marko Leskovic, Adrian Luna (who joined for a two-year deal from A-League defending champions Melbourne City), Jorge Pereyra Diaz (from Argentine club Platense), Alvaro Vazquez (from Sporting Gijon) and Chencho Gyeltshen (who joined from I-League side Roundglass Punjab FC).
While the new Indian recruits such as Harmanjot Khabra, Vincy Barretto, Anil Gaonkar, Hormipam Ruivah and Sanjeev Stalin. Local lads K Prashanth, Hakku, Sahal, Rahul KP, Bijoy, Sachin Suresh and Sreekuttan have done a good job so far. Notably, K Prashanth was given the captain’s armband in a match and he lived up to the expectations.
Vazquez and Diaz have been alert in front while Luna has filled the void left by another playmaker Facundo Pereyra. Ruivah and Sreekuttan have done a commanding job in the friendlies despite the former picking up a red card. However, under the guidance of some of the experienced players, they would be keen on learning new things.
Khabra and Jeakson Singh have been impressive as the defensive midfielders while Ayush Adhikari and Vincy Barretto (who joined from Gokulam Kerala) offer a lot of promise. Additionally, Prabhsukhan Gill and Sachin Suresh will give a tough fight to Albino Gomes to be the starter as a goalkeeper.
The return of Nishu Kumar from injury would be a huge boost. Initially they had lost 0-1 and 3-3 against I-League 2nd division club Kerala United followed by a 2-0 win over Jammu and Kashmir team. The Blasters had a 1-0 win against Indian Navy followed by 0-2 and 0-1 defeats by Bengaluru FC reserves and Delhi FC in the Durand Cup.
Then, they had wins against Indian Navy (2-0), MA Football academy (3-0), Odisha (2-1) and Chennaiyin FC (2-1). Finally, they ended their preseason with a 0-3 loss and 1-1 draw against Jamshedpur FC. As a result, Blasters had a long preseason with six wins, two draws and four losses in 12 matches.
A lot of defensive errors are still prelavent under Vukomanovic but the goals conceded might be far less than that of last season. However, it’s just the preseason and anything can happen in the league. The teams have strengthened further this season and the expected position for Kerala Blasters is 5th place. However, if the team would be winning consistently, they could earn themselves a top-four finish.
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