Kerala Blaster was surprise package last season. The yellow brigade were able to crawl themselves in the finals. They even looked threatening throughout the finals but last minute goal from Athletico de Kolkata denied them the tile. Last season finalist was the only team which had their preseason in India. Leta s see how their squad lined up for upcoming season.
Goalkeepers: Sandip Nandy, Stephen Bywater, Shilton Paul.
Just like last season, the blasters have experience in the goalkeeping department. The trio of Nady, Bywater and Shilon Paul have seen ages standing under the bar. Unlike Nandy later two are the new signings. Sandip Nandy hasna t had lot of time under the bar after last season’ s ISL. It will be unlikely to see him getting a game time and he is most likely to be the backup goalkeeper. Shilton Paul hasna t had best of time with Mohun Bagan in I-league having lost his place as first choice goalkeeper. This will be his golden chance to prove his worth again. Englishmen Stephen Bywater has wealth of experience playing in English lower tier football and he expected to be the first choice goalkeeper for the blasters. He will have to be at his best to fill the vacuum of David James.
Defenders: Peter Ramage, Carlos Marchena, Gurwinder Singh, Sandesh Jhigan, Bruno Perone, Soumik Dey, Marcus Williams, Rahul Bheke, Ramandeep Singh.
The defense of Kerala blaster last season was top notch and they conceded least number of goals in the league stages. This strong defensive ability helped them to qualify for the knock out phases despite not being termed as favorites. Lot of starters in defense like Hengbart and Colin Falvey have left the clubs. They have made some new addition to the defense. The marquee player of the team Carlos Marchena having played 69 times for Spanish national side will be key figure in the defense. The defender has played in Spanish top division until last season which might prove great help for the blasters. He is injury prone off late but if he keeps himself fit during the league he might be real problem for the rival strikers. Peter Ramage and Marcus Williams are the two Englishmen who are expected to start for the Kerala. The Englishmen have experience of playing in English lower divisions.
Sandesh Jhingan will have big responsibility on his shoulder now. Having made a reputation being a strong defender in Indian circuit he will now have to live up to his expectations. Last year Emerging player of the tournament will be one to watch out in the defense.
Midfielders: Joao Coimbra, Ishfaq Ahmad, Shankar Sampingiraj, C.K Vineeth, Mehtab Hussain, Cavin Lobo, Antonio German, Peter Carvalho, Pulga, Josue.
The midfield of the blaster has huge experience in Indian football. Joao Coimbra the Portuguese midfielder will be surely one to watch out for the blasters. The Portuguese will be having the responsibility of controlling the midfield of the team. Cavin Lobo and C.K. Vineeth are two of the most exciting players in India. Both the midfielders are utility players and known for their goal scoring abilities. The duo will have huge responsibility on their shoulders. They might miss few matches because of the national team commitments which will be huge loss for the Kerala Blasters. The Spanish duo of Pulga and Josue are more than decent with their ability with dead ball situations. Pulga having miss majority of last season because of injury will like to produce better football this season. Josue is a young Spaniard who has come up through some of the better youth teams from Spain. He hasna t had best of the starts to his career in Europe and this is opportunity to start freshly.
Forwards: . Chris Dagnell, Sachez Watt, Manandeep Singh, Mohammed Rafi.
Ian Hume, the top scorer of the club for last season Indian super league will be huge miss for the Kerala Blasters. The talisman has moved on to defending champion Athletico de Kolkata. The strikers in the team will have huge boots to fill. The new set of strikers will be having backing up of strong fan base. Chris Dagnell is not known for scoring in numbers but he is equipped to be a second striker and help his fellow striker producing goals. His utility will be very important in the Kerala blasters. Dagnell coming from league one in English circuit which is 4th division in England will look to prove his worth in India.
Other English striker in the team is Sachez Watt and he is a product of Arsenal youth system. Watt havena t made impact for gunners and moved on to lower division teams. The youngster is known for his pace and will be one which will keep defenders on their toes. Kerala boy Mohammed Rafi will be eager to play at home after a very long time. The Kerala lad having played for many clubs in India have experience under his belt. Manandeep Singh after strong start to his career has been away from top flight football for a very long time. Having trained in Norway just few months back will come handy for the Punjabi.
Former England U-20 manager Peter Taylor will be at the helms of the Kerala Blasters. The Englishmen will know that his team does not boast big names. His tactical acumen will be important for the team’ s success. He is most likely to deploy 3-5-2 formation packing the midfield. His experience of managing different sides in his managerial career will come handy.
Kerala Blasters does not boast big names, they havena t had best of pre season unlike other teams. Some of the better players from last season have left the club. The team looks fragile in forward line and will be difficult for them to break opponents. The strong fans support at the home games could inspire players to play beyond their expectations. The top 4 finish looks difficult to achieve for the blasters.