Bengaluru VS Kerala Blasters
In a historic moment for the Indian Super League (ISL), the 2023-24 season will see a new team join the ranks through promotion, marking the first time in the league’s 10-year history that this has occurred. Punjab FC, champions of the I-League last season, earned their spot in the league based on their on-field performance rather than financial considerations. While Punjab FC won’t feature in the opening match between Bengaluru VS Kerala Blasters FC in Kochi, they are set to grab attention when they make their debut on September 23 against defending champions Mohun Bagan Super Giant in Kolkata.
Opening Clash with a History
The ISL’s 10th season begins with a potentially intense contest, especially considering the events of the previous season between Bengaluru VS Kerala Blasters. Kerala walked out of their semi-final against Bengaluru, leading to a Rs 4 crore fine and a lingering dispute over a refereeing decision. The matter has even reached the Court of Arbitration for Sport. As the new season kicks off, Kerala will be eager to secure a win and put last season’s controversy behind them.
Both Kerala and Bengaluru have witnessed changes in their squad compositions, typical for ISL teams. Kerala, under Ivan Vukomanovic’s leadership, has sought experienced players with a history of winning trophies. For Kerala, a club yet to secure a title, the pressure to perform and claim the championship is substantial.
On the other hand, Bengaluru couldn’t defend their Durand Cup title, and they’ll be without captain Sunil Chhetri, who is on national duty at the Asian Games.
Vukomanovic, Kerala’s head coach, will serve a touchline ban stemming from the previous season’s walkout controversy. His assistant, Frank Dauwen, will step into the role, aiming for victory in front of passionate home supporters.
Bengaluru’s head coach, Simon Grayson, has expressed confidence in his squad’s ability to secure a positive outcome. The club made substantial moves in the transfer market, adding 11 new players to their roster.
Kerala’s new signing, defender Pritam Kotal, has set his sights on leading the team to victory, much like his experience with Bagan last year.
With 12 teams competing for honors, Mohun Bagan and Shield winners Mumbai City are viewed as strong contenders, although several others have assembled competitive squads.
Given the intermittent nature of the competition due to international commitments, teams with greater squad depth are expected to have an advantage as the season progresses towards March next year.