The Indian Super League might be played behind closed doors this season, but that doesn’t take away the fact that we are set for an exciting season. Moreover, with two new teams - ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal set to make their debut in the league, we are in for a treat.
The Indian Super League might be played behind closed doors this season, but that doesn’t take away the fact that we are set for an exciting season. With two new teams - ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal set to make their debut in the league, we are in for a treat.
The Indian Super League has witnessed some mouth-watering contests in the past, while some rivalries have gone to become more than just a game. With 11 teams set to play for the coveted trophy this season, the fun is set to reach sky-high in the upcoming season. While some of the fixtures have always drawn attention in the past, there will be an added flavour with two new teams joining the league.
Let us have a look at the fixtures to watch out for in the 2020-21 Indian Super League season:
Chennaiyin FC vs Kerala Blasters FC
The Southern Rivalry exclusively started in the course of the Indian Super League after players from both sides were involved in a heated exchange during the 2014 play-offs when a certain Marco Materazzi was sent off in the return leg, which Kerala Blasters FC won eventually to cement their place in the final. As a result of the incident, Kerala Blasters FC fans greeted the World Cup winner by wearing Zinedine Zidane masks in their next meeting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, which not only rubbed salt in their wounds but also sparked an immediate rivalry between the two clubs from South India.
Even though Kerala Blasters have had immense support, including constant backing from the ‘Manjapaddas’ - one of the most active fan groups in India, coupled with star-studded players, they have never won the ISL. On the flip side, Chennayin FC are two-time champions of the league, which has been a bitter pill to swallow for their rivals. Both the clubs, with several changes in their roster, including changes in the managerial section, will clash head to head once again later this month, in what we are expecting to be a cracker of a match.
Bengaluru FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan
Who would have thought a club founded in 2013, would go on to become one of the most successful clubs within the next six years. They became I-League champions in their debut season and have won at least one trophy in each season until the last year. Their resurgence as a force to be reckoned with in Indian football has coincided with Mohun Bagan’s rise in the late 2010s under the leadership of Sanjoy Sen, which made this fixture an anticipated one in the Indian football calendar. It during the same time period that the ‘Mariners’ won an I-League, followed by a Federation Cup the next season.
Thousands of Mohun Bagan fanatics took a long trip to Bengaluru on a rain-drenched evening, where they had to take a point against the local team to claim the silverware, while Bengaluru needed a win to do the same. Mohun Bagan kept their nerves and equalized late to trump the rivals - thus the beginning of a bitter rivalry between the two sides. With the ‘West Block Blues’ making their debut in the Indian Super League a few years back, their rivalry with Mohun Bagan will reignite once again, with the latter making an appearance for the first time.
A few months back, Bengaluru FC owner Parth Jindal even stated that their biggest rival this season is going to be ATK Mohun Bagan. Expect some fireworks when both the teams come face to face this season.
Arguably one of the anticipated clashes in the ISL this season for various reasons apart from the fact that both of them have a strong team on paper. It dates back to the day when Indian football was shocked by the departure of FC Goa’s then-coach Sergio Lobera - a tactician who was responsible for shaping one of the most consistent teams in the league, even guiding them to a maiden Super Cup title. While team performance was not at all the reason behind the termination of the fruitful partnership, the actual story is known to only those within the FC Goa management circle. What was more remarkable? FC Goa finished at the top of the points table last season, mainly under the guidance of Sergio Lobera, becoming the first club from India to get a direct spot in the AFC Champions League group stage.
Mumbai City FC, boosted by the financial backing of City Football Group, was swift to rope in the Spanish manager. Not only that, they made sure that the core players of the FC Goa unit flocked to the western metropolis and reunited with their former boss. What was left with FC Goa? A few young players that are hungry to prove themselves without someone to take them through the ride. Juan Ferrando, at the age of 36, was vested with the responsibility of taking the ‘Gaurs’ forward. The youngest coach in the history of the league has shown traits of a good manager in the making, with him working in tandem with the existing and fresh faces of the contingent.
With both the matches to be played in Goa, it will be a strange homecoming for most of Mumbai City FC’s players - most importantly for Sergio Lobera, while Juan Ferrando will have a point to prove to his new employers. While the match will be played on the field, a lot would be brewing in the background.
ATK Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal
There’s no one unaware of the 100-year old rivalry between these two historic clubs, with the fixture often listed as one of the most fiercest Derby in the entire world. But, the ‘Kolkata Derby’ has gotten a second life, with both the clubs set to face each other for the first time in the Indian Super League. The hype revolving the game generally springs up a couple of weeks before the matchday, but with fans taking the social media by storm regarding some burning topics, the past few months have acted as a build-up to the upcoming fixture. While East Bengal fans have claimed that their identity is intact with them taking a sly dig at their cross-road rivals, Mohun Bagan fanatics are not ready to accept the fact as usual.
ATK Mohun Bagan have retained most of their players from the erstwhile ATK along with the coach Anotonio Lopez Habas already have a set team at their disposal that won the Indian Super League last season. Meanwhile, SC East Bengal have a revamped side altogether, with former Liverpool star Robbie Fowler at the helm of affairs, raring to have a taste of the ISL. Even though ATK Mohun Bagan will be ahead on papers, the ‘red and gold’ brigade possesses an element of unpredictability, with most of their players making their debut in the league, which could work out in their favour.
The most unfortunate part regarding the upcoming fixture is that it would be playing behind closed doors - a sorry sight for the millions of fans who enjoy the atmosphere and flock to the stands. But after all - It’s the ‘Kolkata Derby.’