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ISL 2017-18: Kerala Blasters host ATK in Indian Super League season opener

Kerala Blasters will host defending champions ATK in the opening game of the Indian Super League 2017/18 season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday.

indian super league 2017 Updated: Nov 17, 2017 13:41 IST
Sarthak Bal
Sarthak Bal
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
ISL 2017,ISL 2017-18,Indian Super League
A capacity crows is expected at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday when Kerala Blasters host ATK in the ISL 2017-18 season opener.(AFP)

If history is anything to go by, then the chances of the Kerala Blasters getting the better their visitors – ATK, in the opening match of the Indian Super League on Friday fall significantly out of favour for the home side. (ISL 2017-18 FULL COVERAGE)

In their eight meetings in the tournament so far, Kerala have managed just one victory. One would expect that a poor record such as this – one that has lost Kerala two titles, would have some bearing on an incoming manager. But Rene Meulensteen, Kerala’s manager this season, is one who doesn’t believe in dwelling on the past.

“The past doesn’t matter tomorrow,” said Meulensteen. “I always tell my players to focus on the game. Not on the occasion - the occasion is for the fans. The match is for the players,” added the former Manchester United assistant coach.

With Kerala’s team sheet boasting of marquee names such as Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown, further bolstered in attack by the singing of former ATK front man Iain Hume, there will surely be an added impetus for the home team to get a positive result this time around. And unlike ATK, who will miss out on their key signing—Robbie Keane, sidelined with a thigh injury for three weeks, Kerala’s squad seems to be fully fit as hinted.

“The squad is fully fit and I can pick whoever I want,” Meulensteen revealed.

Teddy Sheringham, the man in charge of ATK this season, acknowledges the daunting task that awaits the reigning champions, with a 60,000 strong crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, all desperate to watch ATK fall.

“It’s what every boy dreams of, every player, every manager dreams of - to play in front of 60,000 fans. They won’t be supporting us tomorrow but we will know we are doing great if we can keep these amazing fans quiet,” said Sheringham.

With the likes of Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Conor Thomas expected to lead ATK’s charge from the middle, Sheringham says that his team will play to win.

“We have worked hard on our defensive game, but we also want to go forward. We are going to play to win tomorrow,” said the former Machester United striker, wary of the threat posed by Berbatov and Hume.

All of ATK’s triumphs over Kerala have come in the form of one-goal victories, apart from their title clinching win in 2016 that was decided by penalties. And given Kerala’s fire-power this time, they do seem likelier and certainly more capable of outscoring their rivals in the historic clash.

First Published: Nov 17, 2017 11:55 IST