The third edition of the Indian Super League kicks off in Guwahati later today with the home side NorthEast United FC taking on the runners up of the inaugural edition Kerala Blasters FC post an opening ceremony. The choice of Guwahati for the opening ceremony is crucial since the craze for football is at its peak in the North Eastern part of the country with NorthEast United FC representing the region in the Indian Super League and the likes of Shillong Lajong and Aizawl FC representing it in the I League. Both sides failed to reach the playoffs stage in the previous edition with NorthEast finishing fifth and Blasters finishing last. Blasters however won both their matches last season with Highlanders’ only win over Blasters coming in 2014. Both sides will be looking to win in order to start their campaign of high.

Team News And Tactical Brief

NorthEastUnited FC

NorthEast United FC’ s head coach Nelo Vingada will be looking to take his side to their first ever semifinals and the home matches will no doubt play a crucial role in this regard. Vingada will be looking to field his best eleven in this match. Despite the presence of veteran Subrata Paul, it is going to be the young TP Rehenesh who will start under the bar for the Highlanders. The defense will be led by Mailson Alves who played a key role in Chennaiyin’ s title win last season. Mailson is likely to be accompanied in the defense by fellow Brazilian Gustavo Lazzaretti. Reegan Singh who has played for Salgaocar and Royal Wahingdoh in the last two seasons in the I League is expected to start on the right while Robin Gurung on the left.

The midfield will be led by the marquee player Didier Zokora who played for FC Pune City last season. A veteran of 123 caps for Ivory Coast, Zokora will be the pivot around which the team plays. Zokora will be joined in the heart of the midfield by the lanky Rowllin Borges who has now become an important player in the national team. Katsumi Yusa’ s vast I League experience makes an important player in the NorthEast setup and he is expected to start on the right side of the midfield with the highly rated Seityasen Singh on the left. The attack will be led by the Argentine Nicolás Vélez who scored five goals for the club last season and went on to become a fan favorite. He will be joined by 31 year olfd Robert Cullen of Japan. Cullen featured for the Japanese U20 squad and has the experience of playing in Europe.

Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Rehenesh; Gurung, Mailson, Lazzaretti, Reegan; Seityasen, Zokora, Borges, Katsumi; Vélez, Cullen.

Possible Starting XI

Possible Starting XI

Kerala Blasters

Under coach Steve Coppell, the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned side will be looking to leave behind a forgetful second season. Graham Stack who is also the goalkeeping coach of the team is expected to start under the goal for the visitors while the defense will be led by marquee player Aaron Hughes who ho over 1oo international caps to his name for Northern Ireland. Hughes has played for top clubs like Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Fulham and his presence will be bring a sense of calm to the team. Cédric Hengbart, the Frenchman is expected to partner Hughes in the centre of the defense. Hengbart played for Blasters in the first season and for NorthEast in the second. Sandesh Jhingan, the rock of the Indian national team defense will be seen on the left side with Pratik Chowdhary on the right in the absence of Rino Antao.

The midfield will be led by Spaniard Josu Currais who has returned to the club after a good last season. Josu is expected to play as a play-maker in the squad with Mehtab Hosaain likely to be entrusted with the defensive duties. Mehtab may have lost his place in the national team but is still quite an effective player. Mohammed Rafique who scored the wining goal against Blasters in the final of the first season may be seen on the right while in the absence of CK Vineeth, Antonio German will play as the left winger. Haokip who scored a hat-trick for FC Goa in the last season will lead the attack for the Yellow brigade with Haitian international Kervens Belfort to partner him. Blasters also have the likes of Michael Chopra and Mohammed Rafi as substitute options.

Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2): Stack; Jhingan, Hengbart, Hughes, Pratik; German, Mehtab Hossain, Josu, Rafique; Haokip, Belfort.


NorthEast United FC 2-1 Kerala Blasters

Buoyed by the crowd support, the home side is likely to play an attacking football which shall see them eke out a narrow win in the inaugural match of the third edition of the Indian Super League.

Featured Image Courtesy : ISL Media

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