ISL season preview: A stepping stone and a pit stop

League is a forum for those whose careers are in decline as well as those who are looking for new opportunities.

With teams and stars returning home after a two-year absence, it’s party time once more in the Hero Indian Super League. The league has returned to its standard home-and-away format after spending the previous two seasons in Goa and being confined to a “bubble” because to the global pandemic.

And what better place to begin than Kochi, where East Bengal will play Kerala Blasters on Friday at the Nehru Stadium, the ISL team with the largest fan base. There will undoubtedly be a full house.

This time around, the 11-team ISL will look and feel different. The season will be lengthier because games will no longer be played every day but rather over the weekends or roughly from Thursday to Sunday.

For clubs, that ought to be a great blessing.

Ivan Vukomanovic, the coach who led the Blasters to a runner-up finish last year, said on Thursday that a longer season gives his team more time to practise and heal.

“There is a difference in how you prepare for a quick event. There is also no lengthy wait before you may train or try out new stuff. It’s also bad because if you are hurt, your season is over. There is an opportunity to rehabilitate and play again when the season is lengthy.

For the first time, the top six clubs will qualify for the playoffs rather than the usual four.

Because more clubs will compete fiercely to make the top six, the top six playoff structure is more intriguing. Speaking of the top four, some teams began playing sloppily in January of last year when they realised they were finished. Playing against the same team in November or December when they were still giving it their all was not the same, according to Vukomanovic.

Mumbai City has bolstered the team with some very impressive names, including Greg Stewart, the recipient of the “Hero of the League” award from the previous season. Mumbai City, which won its first ISL championship last season, has kept its core team, led by goal-scoring machine Bartholomew Ogbeche, intact. Additionally, Bengaluru has added Roy Krishna, while Goa has signed Spaniard Alvaro Vazquez, who was a major factor in Blasters’ last-place finish.

However, in the ISL, anyone may win against anyone, according to Vukomanovic.

There will be some shocks, and teams that can successfully navigate the lengthy season can hope to succeed.


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