The third season of the Indian Super League will kick off from 1st October, 2016 and the first match will be played between Northeast United FC and a rejuvenated Kerala Blasters FC.
After finishing 8th and bottom of the qualifying table last campaign, Kerala Blasters will look forward to turn the tables. The Kochi franchise under the ownership of Sachin Tendulkar have one of the biggest fan following in the country and would surely look for a better start to the season this time and would aim to win the whole tournament, after making it to the finale once, in the inaugural season.
Kerala Blasters are under a new head coach for the 2016 season, in the form of Steve Coppell. Coppell is one of the biggest names in English Football. The former England international has made over 320 appearances for English giants Manchester United and has also managed teams such as Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Brentford in the past and has got Reading promoted to the Premier League.
After finishing bottom of the table last season, The Blasters can only look for positives and go up. In order to do that they have signed Northern Irish veteran Aaron Hughes. Hughes who has played for Newcastle United for almost 8 years, making a total of 205 appearances, also had a 7 year run with Fulham FC, featuring over 190 times for the Cottagers. Hughes is someone who has the experience of playing at the highest level and someone who has recently played in a big tournament like the Euro 2016.
Kerala Blasters have also signed other International stars such as Spaniard Josu and Chad International Azrack Mahamat to strengthen their midfield, along with veteran goalkeeper Englishman Graham Stack.
The Kochi franchise has retained French defender Cedric Hengbart and English forwards Antonio German and Michael Chopra. Kerala Blasters further roped in Haiti International Duckens Nazon in order to bolster their attack. Among the Indians, they have managed to retain the likes of Mehtab Hossain. Indian International and key defender Sandesh Jhingan, veteran keeper Sandip Nandy, Gurwinder Singh, Mohammed Rafi all have been retained as well.
Among the new signings, The Blasters have signed goalkeeper Kunal Sawant, defender Rino Anto who featured for Atletico de Kolkata in the past. The Blasters also have a talented forward in Thongkhosiem Haokip who won the ISL Emerging Player of the Match award 2 times against FC Pune City and Mumbai City FC in the 2015 ISL season.
Kerala Blasters have a brilliant squad depth and are one of the most balanced sides in the tournament this season. The Blasters have one of the most promising defensive backline this season with the addition of marquee signing Aaron Hughes, and with the likes of International stars such as Cedric Hengbart and Elhadji Ndoye.
The squad also consists of promising Indian defenders such as Rino Anto, Sandesh Jhingan and Gurwinder Singh. The midfield has the likes of Mehtab Hossain, Josu, Ivory Coast youngster Didier Kadio, Vinit Rai and C.K. Vineeth. With forwards such as Antonio German, Michael Chopra and Mohammed Rafi, Kerela fans can certainly expect lots of goals to come by this season.
Finally, it must be mentioned that the Blasters may have signed lot of new faces but surely the impact signing will be new head coach. And also, the tremendous home support the team get during their home matches in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will help them a lot in the long run.
Ironically, the only weakness the team might face also comes with the signing of the new head coach, Steve Coppell. Even though he is a veteran of the game, the team might face some problems to work with the boss in the upcoming season and it might take the players some time to settle in.
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