ISL 2016 Final | Kerala Blasters vs Atletico de Kolkata combined XI

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ISL 2016 Final | Kerala Blasters vs Atletico de Kolkata combined XI

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Faizan Qadiri

12/15/2016

After 60 long games, over a period of just over 2 months, we finally have narrowed the field, which consisted of 8 teams, to just two teams. The 2016 final will be a replay of the first-ever ISL final, where Kolkata emerged victorious over Kerala thanks to a goal deep into second-half injury time.

Both teams were pitted against the two favorites for the ISL crown in the semifinals - Delhi and Mumbai. But they worked their way through the best attack and best defense in the league respectively and came out on top, with some exceptional performances by their players.

In the group stages, both teams had gotten off to average starts but gained momentum in the middle of the season to seal a playoff spot. There is enough talent on both sides to create another team that would be good enough to play in the ISL. However, here at SportsCafe, we look at the best eleven that can be collated from the squad of both the sides.

Goalkeeper

Sandip Nandy

To be honest, Debjit Majumder could well have taken Nandy's place, but the Kerala shot-stopper’s exceptional performance after a terrible first-half display tipped the decision in his favor. His stats, too, show him in a better light as compared to his counterpart as the Blasters' keeper has kept one more cleansheet compared to his opposite number while having played a game less. In the penalty shoot-out against Delhi, he proved he could play a few mind games as well as he psyched out all three penalty takers from Delhi to seal a win for his team.

Defenders

Sandesh Jhingan

Even though he ended up on the losing side of the 2014 final, Jhinghan picked up the trophy for the best emerging player of the league in its debut season. This season, again, he has looked like the player that broke into the Indian team before he was sidelined by injury. He has just under 2 tackles a game and guarantees his team an interception a match. His anticipation has also improved drastically as he proved with his well-timed tackle on Kean Lewis on the left side of the defense while playing as a right back.

Cedric Hengbart

Another player who suffered heartbreak in the 2014 final against ATK was Cedric Hengbart. He left the club the next season to ply his trade at NorthEast United but made a heroic comeback to Kerala this season. What a season he has had so far!! 38 tackles, 40 aerial duels along with 29 interceptions in the 16 games he has played so far are some of the best stats ever posted in the ISL. It's not just the numbers that are impressive, his leadership qualities are even more important than his performances for the Blasters.

Aaron Hughes

Kerala succumbed to a 5-0 loss to Mumbai City FC in the group stage of the competition on Nov 19. Aaron Hughes was an absentee in the match as he was called up to represent his nation in in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers at the same time. When present on the field though, Hughes has beaten 15 opponents in aerial duels in the ten matches he has played and Kerala look a lot more solid defensively when the 37-year-old is partnering Hengbart in the heart of the defense. In the match against Delhi, Hughes pulled a muscle in his leg but continued to labor on for the last ten minutes as his team were out of substitutions.

José Luis "Tiri" Arroyo

Tiri is the only reason this eleven shows a 3 at the back formation because it would be a shame to leave the Spaniard out after his performances this season. When you look at his numbers, they are not as impressive as the players who surround him, but he is not your old-school defender who would go sliding into a challenge. He gets the job done without getting his shorts dirty. In his 10 appearances this season, he has 14 interceptions which is a very impressive number when you consider the fact that if misses the ball, the opponents get a goal.

Abinash Ruidas

While he is technically not a defender, it would be a disgrace if he did not make this list. He has managed to edge out Josu because despite being deployed as a winger, the 22-year-old has just one tackle less than the Kerala player having played four games less than his famous counterpart. His quick feet and pace are assets that could be used in a wing-back role quite effectively. You can be rest assured that there won't be a dull moment in the game if the Indian has the ball at his feet.

Midfielders

Borja Fernández

The midfielder has played in all but one game for the Kolkata outfit in this season so far, and he was just one of two players to retain his place in the second leg of the semi-final against Mumbai. He has just two assists to his name but playing in as a deep-lying midfielder it is not his responsibility to assist the goal-scorers. He is excellent in his role of controlling the tempo of the game as he has attempted the most passes (846) in the league this season. It's not just his contribution in the attack that makes him so special to the squad as with 46 tackles, and 25 interceptions he is ready to do the dirty work in the midfield as well.

Mehtab Hossain

For a team that does not keep a lot of possession, Mehtab has attempted 719 passes. While that might not look like a lot, the second Kerala midfielder on the list is Chadian Azrack Mahamat with 471. As far as numbers are concerned, the Kerala midfielder has made 37 tackles in his 15 games to go along with his 16 interceptions. Mehtab epitomizes everything that the Blasters stand for - a fighting spirit, a never-say-die attitude and a willingness to play on through pain. He, like Hughes, played through injury to see his team over the line in the match against Delhi.

Javi Lara

It was a shocker when Jose Molina decided to rest the midfielder in the first leg of the semi-final against Mumbai. The Spaniard is a magician with the ball at his feet as he can pass the ball just as well as he can carry it. The 31-year-old is the second-highest scorer for the 2014 Champions having bagged 3 goals in this season's competition. He has no assists to his name but if you look at his performances in games, you will realize how impressive the Spaniard truly is.

Sameehg Doutie

The 27-year-old has been an absolute joy to watch this season. His performance against Mumbai at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium is one of the best we have witnessed in the league this season. Lalhmangaihsanga Ralte must be still dizzy after being turned inside out by the South African winger. He has already scored 2 goals this season while setting up 3 for his team-mates. At the moment, the Atletico player is as good as anybody on the wings in the league.

Striker

Iain Hume

Did you really think it would be anyone else? He is the top scorer in ISL history with 23 goals, with 7 of them coming this season. By his lofty standards, the Canadian would say that he has had an average season as he struggled to form a formidable partnership with Helder Postiga, but the duo made it count when it really mattered, as Hume scored a brace to rescue his team from 1-2 in the first leg of the semi-final. Hume, who was on the losing side of the 2014 final, will have another chance to get his hand on the coveted trophy when he goes up against his former side in the final on Sunday.

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