ISL 4 to kick start today with ATK-Kerala Blasters clash
Kochi, Nov 17 (IBNS): The fourth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) is all set to begin on Friday with a face-off between the finalists of the last season, ATK and Kerala Blasters.
Though the inaugural match was initially scheduled to be held at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata, later it has been moved to Kochi.
The first match of the fourth edition of the tournament will be a mega clash between coaches of ATK and Kerala Blasters, Teddy Sheringham and Rene Meulensteen respectively.
Meulensteen expects his Kerala Blasters team to play incisive one-touch attacking football to break through the wall of ATK's defence on Friday.
The Dutchman, famed for his technical coaching, hinted that he will apply the same methods in Kerala that he has always believed in, "delete needless touches and play a fast brand of football to create spaces and score."
"I have always told players that they should figure out who their favourite players are in their best position, see their clips and try and figure out what they're doing right. If you analyse the top players, the reason they stand out is that they don't take touches that they don't need and that creates a different rhythm and speed of play," Meulensteen said.
The Kerala Blasters has won just once in eight meetings against the two-time champions ATK, a 2-1 victory that came three years ago. Meulensteen will however have one of the players who scored in that victory in Iain Hume.
The visitors, ATK, are coming into the game on Friday not having lost a single first away match in three seasons. They've also scored 11 goals against the Blasters and broke their hearts in two finals.
Meulensteen said that he "can pick whoever he wants" - that his team was entirely fit.
"The past doesn't mattertomorrow," the former assistant of Sir Alex Ferguson said.
ATK will be without their star signing Robbie Keane.
The former Manchester United striker has enough goal threats to choose from, with India's Robin Singh being one of them. In midfield, he has Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Jayesh Rane, both supremely talented in picking out a pass.
"We have worked hard on our defensive game, but we also want to go forward. We are going to play to win tomorrow," Sheringham said, keeping his cards close to his chest in terms of defining what sort of approach ATK will take.
Sheringham did explain how he has prepared his team for the test of playing in Kerala: "It's what every boy dreams of, every player, every manager dreams of - to play in front of 60,000 fans. They won't be supporting us tomorrow but we will know we are doing great if we can keep these amazing fans quiet."
More than anything else though, the match will be a battle of one of the strongest home sides against one of the finest away sides. The Blasters won six home matches in a row last season, while ATK won four games on the road.
Kerala have had trouble in their fortress only against ATK - the only team to beat them in Kochi last year in what was a memorable season.
The ISL 2017 will be a long season as it will run for four months till the two best teams of the tournament face each other in the final.
The match is scheduled to start at 7.50 p.m.
The opening ceremony, which will begin at 7.15 p.m., will be graced by Bollywood actors, Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif.