The ninth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) will kick off when Kerala Blasters takes on East Bengal at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi, on Friday.
Follow the match live here: Kerala Blasters vs East Bengal, ISL 2022-23 match updates
After two years of matches being played at centralised locations and behind closed doors, the league is back to the home-and away format with the runner-up of the last season starting its pursuit for the title on matchday 1.
The contest tonight will be between a side that has been built by KBFC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic throughout the previous season against a side that former Indian national team head coach Stephen Constantine has got together before the Durand Cup.
Kerala will rue the absence of the two heads of its attack last season – Alvaro Vazquez and Jorge Pereyra Diaz – who had scored 16 of KBFC’s 37 goals and joined FC Goa and Mumbai City this season respectively.
However, the team has signed Apostolos Giannou and Dimitrios Diamantakos as replacements and will have Adrian Luna – its midfield talisman last season – pulling strings in attack this season as well.
“For us, there is no pressure, there is always a pleasure because the players and us are doing something that we love, Vukomanovic, the head coach of Kerala Blasters, said before the match.
“So, when you have this kind of atmosphere and situation, you have a positive mindset and nice things tend to happen. We believe in our objectives, we believe in our ideas, and we will see where it takes us.”
East Bengal, on the other hand, has made optimistic strides after another disastrous ISL campaign last time, where it finished last in the table with just one win.
Bino George, the Kerala coach who won the Santosh Trophy this year, has paired with Constantine in the dugout, while former FC Goa centre-back Ivan Gonzalez is expected to be the defensive pillar for the Red-and-Gold brigade.
The team has assigned former Aniket Jadhav – an ISL Champion – from Hyderabad FC, Cleiton Silva from Bengaluru FC and Sumit Passi from RoundGass Punjab – all of whom have looked promising in the Durand Cup.
“I understand how Indian players think, and how they feel and that for sure is an advantage. But the past is the past and I can't change what happened last season or the season before. I can change what's going to happen next,” Constantine said before the match.
“We have worked very hard in the short time that we have been together. I had 12 players when I arrived here but now we have a squad of 26-27 players and they have worked very hard for me so far.”
In the Indian Super League, KBFC and EBFC have met four times in the past and only once has a decisive result come through, when Kerala Blasters beat East Bengal on February 14, 2022. The remaining three matches have all been draws.
- Kerala Blasters 1-0 East Bengal FC – February 14, 2022
- Kerala Blasters 1-1 East Bengal FC – December 12, 2021
- Kerala Blasters 1-1 East Bengal FC – January 15, 2021
- Kerala Blasters 1-1 East Bengal FC – December 20, 2020
Kerala Blasters’ senior team will play ISL as its first competitive tournament this season. In the Durand Cup, where it fielded its reserve side, KBFC finished as the only junior side (among ISL teams) to play the quarterfinals.
East Bengal FC, on the other other hand, ended its Durand Cup campaign on a high, beating runner-up Mumbai City FC 4-3 in its final group stage match.
Kerala Blasters FC: Gill – Khabra, Leskovic, Hormipam, Carneiro – Luna, Singh, Mongil, Sahal – Dimitrios, Giannou
East Bengal FC: Kamaljit – Pritam, Ivan, Ankit – Kyriakou, Alex, Mobashir, Shouvik, Passi – Suhair, Cleiton
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