The Indian Super League (ISL) is ready to embark on its seventh season with a record total of 115 matches throughout the league season. Therefore, the first 11 rounds of fixtures were announced by the Football Sports Development Limited via the league’s official Facebook handle on Friday.
The premier footballing action kicks off on 20th November with the bigs guns, Kerala Blasters and ATK Mohun Bagan going head to head against each other. ISL debutants SC East Bengal will start their campaign a week later against their arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan in the first Kolkata Derby in ISL history. The game is scheduled on 27th November.
On 22nd November, FC Goa will take on Mumbai City FC in a unique rivalry. The battle will be between two young Spanish tacticians, Sergio Lobera and Juan Ferrando. Lobera, who was unceremoniously sacked last season by the Gaurs, will have a lot to prove to his former employers.
Lastly, old foes, Bengaluru FC, ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal will finally reignite their rivalry in the ISL. Considering the coronavirus situation in the country, the league will be conducted in Goa in the three following stadiums- GMC Stadium Bambolim, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Fatorda and Tilak Maidan.
Here are the key fixtures to watch out for in the upcoming ISL season.
#5 Bengaluru FC vs Kerala Blasters
It is a rivalry that has developed recently in the ISL and the hype around it is very real. Although the supporters of their respective teams would have added more spice to the recipe nevertheless the teams will be assured to settle past scores in the upcoming season.
The intensity and the banter around the crowd ahead of this fixture make it one to savour for the Indian football fans.
#4 Bengaluru FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan & SC East Bengal: The rejuvenation of the I-League rivalry
During their time in the I-League, Bengaluru FC became then primary title challengers for both the Kolkata clubs. Although the Blues did not have a huge fanbase like the century-old clubs they did ruffle a few feathers with their banters and chants.
This created a rivalry among these teams and the adrenaline of these matches would always be high with the fans also playing a huge role. This season that aspect will be missing but the teams will once again go all guns blazing at each other reigniting the rivalry just like the I-League days.
#3 SC East Bengal vs Kerala Blasters
It is not a rivalry yet, but when two passionate and largest fanbases in the country are involved it will be such a picturesque scene to see the stadium filled to rafters after the pandemic.
However this season it will be a battle between two teams looking to make a positive mark and also two tacticians trying to figure out life in a new league.
Although Blasters coach Kibu Vicuna has had prior experience in India as he won the I-League with Mohun Bagan last season, the ISL is a different ball game. Similarly, Robbie Fowler will also look to adapt to the changes and figure out the best possibilities for his teams.
#2 FC Goa vs Mumbai City FC: The return of Sergio Lobera
It will be a sight to behold when former FC Goa stars like Mandar Rao Dessai, Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall and others will be lining up for the Islanders managed by Sergio Lobera, who had such a huge hand in FC Goa’s success last season.
However, the tables have turned now, the Gaurs have appointed another young Spaniard in Juan Ferrando and it will be very interesting to see two young coaches going up against each other.
Also both the sides have stars throughout the pitch and it will be a match that Indian football fans will be eager to watch.
#1 SC East Bengal vs ATK Mohun Bagan: The historic Derby
Undoubtedly the biggest and the most awaited fixture in Indian football is the Kolkata Derby. One of the oldest and grandest fixtures in not only in India but in the continent will be for the first time played in the ISL.
Both the Kolkata clubs will be hoping to stamp their authority on this particular game and even without the fans, the intensity will surely be as high as ever.
The match is scheduled on 27th November at the Tilak Maidan, incidentally, the Red and Gold Brigade will start their league campaign with the high-intensity fixture and Robbie Fowler will look to set the tone right from the start.