Third season of Indian Super League is about to kick off in a week’s time and each of the eight franchises have concentrated to build up a formidable side in order to conquer the silverware.
Atletico De Kolkata, the champions of inaugural campaign and semifinalists of last year, are not far behind and have formed one of the most balanced teams of the tournament with a view to regain the title from defending champions Chennaiyin FC.
The Kolkata based franchise have not gone after the big names like Diego Forlan, John Arne Riise or Frank Malouda, rather they have picked up veteran Stephen Pearson who has previous experience with Kerala Blasters and retained the likes of Iain Hume, Borja Fernandez, Sameehg Doutie, Tiri, Javi Lara, Oftense Nato and also kept hold of Portuguese international Helder Postiga as marquee who featured and scored twice in his side’s opening fixture last campaign before getting injured and ruled out for the remainder of the tournament. Defender Pablo Gallardo, custodian Dani Mallo and forward Juan Belencoso have also joined the side in order to increase the squad depth.
Among the Indians, ATK have retained Arnab Mondal, best Indian centre-back currently, who has been rock-solid defensively for past two campaigns along with Sheikh Jewel Raja and Kingshuk Debnath to add volume to the squad. However, the new manager Jose Francisco Molina has roped in a few new faces who have been popular in Bengal and as well as in Indian football circuit – Robert Lalthlamuana, Shilton Paul, Pritam Kotal, Lalrindika Ralte, Bikramjit Singh, Keegan Pereira as well as the brightest young prodigies of the country in form of goalkeeper Debjit Majumder under the bar, Bidyananda Singh Ningthoujam, Prabir Das at defense, Bikash Jairu and Abinash Ruidas on the wing.
Atletico De Kolkata are one of the most balanced side in this year’s tournament and have retained the set of foreign players who formed great amalgamation during past two seasons. Also, they have replaced several under-performing Indian players with promising youngsters who have shown promises and persistently performing for their clubs and country. Arnab has been a leader at back, Borja has led the midfield along with forward Iain Hume who has been one of the best recruits of Indian Super League. He will be hoping to continue from where he left last season and generate a lethal combination upfront with Postiga.
New boss Molina has inherited a squad built by his fellow countryman Antonio Lopez Habas who has left the coaching role in order to join FC Pune City. It will be a tough task for Molina now to inject his philosophy in a short period of time and the players must work harder to gel as early as possible to produce favorable outcomes from the very first fixture. The preseason campaign at Spain must have helped them to rectify their deficiencies and the manager now has a huge ask to carry forward the legacy set by Habas.
Also, the team’s home ground has been temporarily shifted to Rabindra Sarovar Stadium from Yuba Bharati Krirangan ( It is being renovated for next year’s U-17 World Cup Football) that contains much smaller crowd compared to the later. Home support has always been a motivational influence for them in previous occasions and the players now will have to adjust in unfamiliar surroundings.
Where they can finish:
On paper, Atletico De Kolkata are one of the title favorites. They also have some insufficiency as discussed earlier and have to get over those inadequacy to reconquer the title.
Photo by mark.watmough