The fifth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) has been much different from its predecessors with the provision of two international breaks in the very first half of the season.
The two breaks have come and gone with a third big one set to get underway in December to allow the India National Team to apply the finishing touches to its preparations for the 2019 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
When the provision of the three breaks had been announced ahead of the start of the season, it had received a mixed reception from the coaches and players with some of them welcoming the extra days to recover and rest while others raised their eyebrows towards the move.
Now, after the completion of the October and November international breaks, the picture is becoming a lot clearer for the 10 teams. The most recent two-week pause has hurt many teams in the ISL with injuries to key players piling up.
NorthEast United FC, who have made a fine start to their campaign under Eelco Schattorie, have been dealt a big blow with Ghana midfielder Augustine Okrah potentially ruled out for the remainder of the season due to an injury he sustained during training in the international break.
Bengaluru FC, on the other hand, have been dealt the biggest blow with their star in-form striker Miku sidelined with an ankle injury. The Venezuelan forward has already missed his side’s clashes against FC Goa and Delhi Dynamos and is expected to be out for another five weeks or so.
Elsewhere, Jamshedpur FC have lost the services of the prolific Spanish winger Sergio Cidoncha who sustained an ACL injury in the international break and is set to be ruled out for a considerable period of time.
ATK, who brought FC Pune City striker Emiliano Alfaro on loan following injury to Kalu Uche, had to face further disappointment with the Uruguayan rupturing his Achilles just days after his arrival at the Kolkata club.
Mumbai City FC too did not escape the international break without an injury with Souvik Chakrabarti having to miss the clash against ATK due to a knock he was carrying.
Injuries are not the only heartbreak the international breaks have brought for the ISL clubs. For some of the outfits, the break has halted any momentum they had generated previously with defending champions Chennaiyin FC being a prime example.
John Gregory’s men brought an end to their dreadful campaign with their first victory of the season when they beat Pune City just before the start of the November international break.
“Sometimes the momentum of the win you want to take it to next game. It probably would have suited us if played another game before the break. But this is the way the fixture is,” the Englishman had said following the completion of the break.
His men took on Jamshedpur FC in their first fixture after the break and were handed a comprehensive 1-3 loss with all the momentum from their Pune win evaporating completely.
Jamshedpur had been enjoying an unbeaten run going into the November but were promptly dealt a maiden defeat of the season by a beleaguered Pune City once the ISL resumed.
ATK head coach Steve Coppell has made his dislike clear for international breaks from the very start and the Englishman has not changed his tunes following the completion of the two so far.
“It’s difficult to establish a rhythm with constant breaks like the international break. Now we have five games in 19 days which is a completely different challenge from how we just had one game in 23 days,” he had stated ahead of his side’s drawn match against Mumbai City.
All in all, the most recent international break has not been too kind for many teams. It will now be interesting to see how the big break during starting from December unfolds for the 10 outfits.