Kerala Blasters continue their quest for the elusive Indian Super League (ISL) title as season five embarks. They kick-start their campaign against ATK at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata and would hope that they live up to the expectations of their fans.
The southern franchise didn’t have the best of campaigns last season and shall certainly look to make amends. Goal analyses the squad’s chances of making it into the play-offs this season.
David James was appointed midway last season and is set to continue as the head coach of the Blasters. The onus is on the former Liverpool FC custodian as the club wishes to end its barren run in the ISL.
James was criticized by former player Dimitar Berbatov for his tactics of hoofing the ball to the striker. The Englishman now has a chance to prove a point as he has been in-charge of signing players for the upcoming season. Kerala Blasters fans have demanded a better performance and James will have to deliver this time around.
Indian players: Dheeraj Singh, Naveen Kumar, Abdul Hakku, Anas Edathodika, Zakeer Mundampara, Seiminlen Doungel, Halicharan Narzary, Jithin MS
Foreign players: Cyril Kali, Matej Poplatnik, Slavisa Stojanovic, Nikola Krcmarevic.
The Kochi-based franchise has made several changes in their squad this season. They have brought in four new foreign players - defender Cyril Kali, midfielder Nikola Krcmarevic and striker duo Matej Poplatnik and Slavisa Stojanovic to bolster their squad this time. Poplatnik is coming off a prolific spell with Slovenian outfit Triglav Kranj and will be expected to shoulder the attacking mantle.
Among the domestic players, Dheeraj Singh and Naveen Kumar have certainly strengthened their goalkeeping department. They do have good wingers in Halicharan Narzary and Seminlen Doungel. Jithin MS, who was the star performer for Kerala in the Santosh Trophy, has also been roped in.
Strength & Weakness:
Kerala Blasters' biggest strength this season seems to be their defence. With the presence of national team duo Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika, Lalruatthara and foreign players like Cyril Kali and Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, David James seems to have enough options in central defence. However, they lack depth in the full-back positions.
If the defence is Blasters' strength, then the midfield is definitely an area they lack experience and creativity. They have signed several young local players but do not have an Indian name of repute. Last year also they had no creative midfielder who could link defence and attack. That concern does not seem to have been addressed.
Goalkeepers: Dheeraj Singh, Naveen Kumar, Sujith Sasikumar
Defenders: Anas Edathodika, Cyril Kali, Lalruatthara, Mohammad Rakip, Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, Sandesh Jhingan, Pritam Singh
Midfielders: Loken Meitei, Sahal Abdul Samad, Kizito Keziron, Deependra Negi, Zakeer Mundampara, Nikola Krčmarević, Hrishi Dhath, Courage Pekuson, Halicharan Narzary, Prasanth K, Suraj Rawat, Seiminlen Doungel
Forwards: C.K.Vineeth, Matej Poplatnik, Slavisa Stojanovic