After a shambolic 2018-19 season, Kerala Blasters will be hoping to pay back their amazing fans with some victories in the upcoming 2019-20 Indian Super League season. Having roped in Eelco Schattorie, who received rave reviews during his tenure with NorthEast United, the club have a great chance to challenge the likes of Bengaluru FC and FC Goa. The Tuskers will play in the season opener against ATK, at home, and will be eyeing three points.
Home Ground: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Kochi)
Highlights Over The Years
2014: The club finished fourth in the league standings, thereby reaching the playoffs. Kerala lost to ATK in the finals.
2015: The club finished bottom in an eight-team league table.
2016: Blasters finished at second position in the league table, reaching the playoffs. They lost to ATK in the title clash.
2017-18: The team finished at sixth position in the standings.
2018-19: The club finished second last in a 10-team league table.
The club's biggest acquisition this season has been Bartholomew Ogbeche. The striker's goals (12 in 18 fixtures) single handedly carried NorthEast United to the playoffs last season, and he could be the decisive factor for Kerala in this campaign. It is also worth noting that he was under Schattorie’s tutelage in NorthEast.
The other arrivals for this season are Abneet Bharti (from Sintrense), Moustapha (from SD Ejea), Raphael Bouli (from Foolad), Lovepreet Singh (from Indian Arrows), Basit Ahmed (from Lonestar Kashmir), Gianni Zuiverloon (from Odisha FC), Raju Gaikwad (from Jamshedpur FC), Manvir Singh (from Ozone FC), Jessel Carneiro (from Dempo SC), Mohammed Rafi (from Chennaiyin FC), Mario Arques (from Jamshedpur FC), Sergio Cidoncha (from Jamshedpur FC), TP Rehenesh (from NorthEast United), Darren Caldeira (from Mohun Bagan), Jairo Rodrigues, Rahul KP (from Indian Arrows), Zayed bin Waleed, Bilal Khan (from FC Pune City), Arjun Jayaraj (from Gokulam Kerala), Seityasen Singh (from NorthEast United), Shibin Raj (from Gokulam Kerala), Samuel Lalmuanpuia (from Shillong Lajong), Nongdamba Naorem (from Mohun Bagan), Shaiborlang Kharpan (from Ozone FC), Naryan Chhetri (from Kerala Blasters).
The departures have been Seminlen Doungel (to FC Goa), CK Vineeth (to Jamshedpur FC), Matej Poplatnik (to Kaposvar), Cyril Kali (to Panserraikos), Anas Edathodika (to ATK), Nemanja Lakic-Pesic (to Vozdovac), Deependra Negi (to Hyderabad FC), Dheeraj Singh (to ATK), Loken Meitei (to TRAU FC), Naveen Kumar (to FC Goa), Kizito Keziron.
Goalkeepers: Bilal Khan, Shibin Raj, TP Rehenesh
Defenders: Abdul Hakku, Gianni Zuiverloon, Jairo Rodrigues, Jessel Carneiro, Lalruatthara, Mohamad Rakip, Raju Gaikwad, Pritam Singh
Midfielders: Halicharan Narzary, Jeakson Singh, Mario Arques, Mouhamadou Gning, Pragyan Gogoi, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Rahul KP, Sahal Abdul Samad, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Seityasen Singh, Sergio Cidoncha
Forwards: Bartholomew Ogbeche, Mohammed Rafi, Messi Bouli
Head Coach: Eelco Schattorie
Eelco Schattorie's arrival at the helm of Kerala Blasters is good news to the Manjappada. He has proved his mettle in the Indian Super League with NorthEast United, where he turned them into title contenders.
The Dutchman believes in defensive football, something which we see in the Eredivisie. He believes in defending deep and then counter-attacking with lightning speed. Schattorie's tactics revolve around an intelligent attacking midfielder and a strong striker, and this is where Samad and Ogbeche come into his plans. The former will be used as a link between the team's midfield to the attackers like Ogbeche, whose physicality will reap benefits. Unlike last season, we can expect Kerala to score plenty of goals and Sahal to really mature as a football player.
Strengths And Weaknesses
Kerala Blasters have made a huge amount of transfer dealings this season, so their main strength lies in the squad depth.
The team looks strong in attack, with Ogbeche expected to lead the lineup with much aplomb. On paper, the team is one of the strongest attacking side in the league, and will need to convert that in practical terms on the field.
Currently, the team is not showing much weakness on analysis, but it will need to work on its defensive aspect. With Sandesh Jhingan out injured, the club will need to find a leader, who can control the backline unlike last season, when it was in complete chaos.
What To Expect
Kerala Blasters have done shrewd dealings in the transfer market and possess the best fanbase in the Indian Super League. After getting the likes of Ogbeche and Schattorie, anything less than a top four finish will be a huge disappointment. Expect the club to battle it out for a playoff spot this season.