Everything is ready for the kick-off of the third edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). The first match is between North East United and Kerala Blasters at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. It is a clash between two sides from the two extremes of the subcontinent. Kerala is down south, while North East is, well, the farthest north-east part of India. What is common between these two teams is massive home support. Both the teams have passionate supporters – so passionate that they will bet for their team in online betting even if they know that the team is likely to lose.
Kerala Blasters, though little known outside country, can dwarf the giant European clubs in terms of popularity. It is among the top-ten clubs if you count the attendance. In its home ground, it regularly attracts 50000-60000 fans. You will not be seeing those fans today as the match is held at North East United’s home ground. Expect great support for North East. But expect some support for Kerala Blasters as well for two reasons. First, people of Kerala are omnipresent in India. And they love their football too. Second, Blasters is partly owned by Sachin Tendulkar, India’s now retired cricketing god.
Preview – North East United
Not much is known about the new team. They have a new coach and a new marquee player. Nelo Vingada is an astute coach and marquee player Didier Zokora is expected to rule the midfield. If you are looking for goals, look out for Nicolas Velez. The Argentine is a real capable striker who, if not marked thoroughly, can slam goals at will. Mailson Alves is expected to be a towering figure in defence. He had a good ISL last season with champions Chennai. The North East Management would want him do even better.
Preview – Kerala Blasters
Blasters have a tendency to start slowly. But their coach Steve Coppell and marquee player Aaron Hughes will be using all their experience to prevent any starting troubles. The team has a core set of familiar players: Cedric Hengbart and Sandesh Jhingan in defence, Josu Currais in midfield and Antonio German in attack. Much is expected of young Indian talent Vinit Rai. The two Haitians, Duckens Nazon and Kevin Belfort, offer further attacking options for Coppell.
In the last four encounters between these sides, the Kerala team has won two and the Highlanders have won one. For betting, check out the odds for a draw. The teams are evenly matched and there is no clear-cut favourite.