So here we are, the final of the inaugural Indian Super League is upon us and to be fair no one expected this final to take place, especially the Kerala Blasters fans, who only booked their participation in the last 4 thanks to a last match win.
Atletico de Kolkata looked to be one of the best teams in the league but that was only during the infancy of the ISL. They have only won 1 of their last 12 games and have looked quite average during the final weeks of the season, they too sealed their berth in the last 4 on the last day.
The two teams have had contrasting paths to the final. Kerala beat Chennaiyin 3-0 in the first leg then lost 3-0 in the away leg during normal time. They were reduced to 10 men and qualified thanks to a late, late, extra time goal by Pearson to qualify 4-3 on aggregate, knocking out Chennaiyin is something no one expected.
Atletico had a much more timid route to the final, boring FC Goa into a couple of 0-0 draws before holding their nerves in the penalty shoot out to reach the first final of the ISL.
Both teams know how to defend but it is their attack which will the worry, Atletico de Kolkata have only scored 16 goals in their 14 games in the league while prior to the semi-final and their 4 goals scored against Chennaiyin, Kerala Blasters had only scored 9 goals in their 14 league games.
Atletico de Kolkata will be missing their star striker Fikru, who is probably going to miss the game due to injury, a massive loss for Kolkata. Luis Garcia may not play the game as he too is carrying a little knock and may be rested for the latter part of the game to keep him fresh.
Kerala will be without Gurwinder Singh and James McAllistar, the defensive players both miss out on the final due to suspension, barring these losses the rest of the players from the teams will be looking to create history and an impression in the first Indian Super League final.
Mehtab Hossain vs. Luis Garcia: Hossain will have to be at his best if he has to stifle the one proper creative midfielder Atletico have. Garcia might not be 100% but he would love to start the game and would be looking to push Atletico to the title.
Iain Hume vs. Josemi: The best striker for Kerala, the Canadian has scored 5 goals for the Blasters and will be the one looking to fire the team to the trophy. Josemi would have to keep a close eye on the striker and try to shut him down.
Stephen Pearson vs. Borja Fernandez: The battle of the midfielders, Pearson scored the all-important goal for Kerala while Borja has been the midfielder who has kept Kolkata ticking along. The battle between the two midfielders will be something worth seeing.
Atletico de Kolkata have only won 4 games all season in normal time.
The Kerala Blasters had scored only 9 goals in the 14 league games, the lowest in the ISL.
Kerala Blasters had conceded the least number of goals (11) in the 14 league games.
Both teams had to play extra time in the 2nd semi-final.
David James: “I think this is possibly the biggest final in Indian football. I came here with no knowledge of the I-League and now we’re speaking about the ISL’s first final, The world’s media wants to know about it, so to think that’s it’s easy or that there is no pressure is completely wrong. It’s been three months, it’s been serious from day one, I’m a competitor and I have a team of competitors and we want to win the cup. I think we’re set for a wonderful encounter tomorrow; it’s going to be a wonderful and exciting game.”
Antonio Habas: “It is been a challenge to fuse together all the different mentalities, the cultures and mind-sets. We have managed to play a very good brand of football. I am happy with the progress that we have made. I want the team to produce their best game in the final. We have had to grind away at times, we have played exceptional football on several occasions, and there have been moments when we have gritted our teeth and carried on. I think we deserve to be in the final because that was what we wanted from day one.”
Possible line ups:
Kerala Blasters starting XI: Sandip, Falvey, Jhingan, Nirmal, Romey, Mehtab, Pearson, Forcada, Ahmed, Hume, Chopra
Atletico de Kolkata starting XI: Edel, Josemi, Nato, Arnab, Borja, Sahni, Pody, Lester, Garcia, Rafi, Sanju
Two teams who come from football loving states, both the teams squeaked through to the last 4 but one team was far more convincing in one of the legs in the semi-final. Kerala Blasters played a brilliant game against Chennaiyin FC and although they almost lost out on the 2nd leg, they should just about beat the Kolkata team.
Quotes courtesy: Indian Super League
Picture courtesy: Indian super league live streaming, IBtimes & Indian Super League