The country awaits for its biggest football showdown as tournament favourites Atletico de Kolkata and perpetual underdogs Kerala Blasters will take the field on Saturday evening with a desire to make history. After just more than two months of football extravaganza, ISL has finally arrived upon its grand finale at D Y Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai.
Taking it to a level just more than a mere league final, the battle will also be between India’s two great cricketing icons- Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. Both the teams will gear up to put on a show for one last time, to renounce the flair of sub-continent football to the world and to nurture the beautiful game in this part of the world – which has been ISL’s motto largely.
Kerala will go into the finals with a much needed confidence of goal-scoring and an added incentive that they have not lost to ATK in the league stage. James Mcallister will be a huge miss though. The Scot international, lately, has been the driving force behind Kerala’s resolve. Gurwinder Singh will also be unavailable for Morgan due to card problems.
Atletico management confirmed that Fikru would miss the final due to injury problems and they have released him from contractual obligations. Absence of their top scorer in the league would be a huge blow for the team as they will again have to do experiments with make-shift attacking force.
News from both the camps came out that Sandip Nandy and Luis Garcia are working hard to recover in time for the big shot. Both the players limped off the field in second leg of Semi Finals. Kerala Blasters can have an option in form of Luis Barreto to guard the sticks, whereas, replacing Luis Garcia will be an impossible job for the Spaniard Habas. Garcia has always kept his impression at the heart of the ATK’s onslaughts.
The men in yellow will have to rely on Mehtab and Ishfaq for the proceedings in the middle of the pitch. The East Bengal duo have been brilliant with their jobs in the semifinals. They may be handed the task to contain Borja Fernandes and Jofre Mateu to neutralize Kolkata’s attacking teeth.
Kerala will emply a four man back-line of Sandesh Jhingan, Nirmal Chhetri, Cedric Hengbart and Colin Falvey, who have conceded least number of goals in the league phase. On the other hand, Antonio Habas may keep the 3-5-2 formation, he induced in the semifinals. The Spaniard will be happy that key defender Arnab Mondal will be fit to play the final as well, after he managed to keep his legs running for full 120 minutes at Goa.
Kerala will mostly depend upon Canadian firepower Iain Hume, who is now the second highest goal scorer in the league. The iconic striker is in great form and has recently been adjudged player of the week. The Easterners also need to check out Pearson’s influence into the attacking third, which he brings with all his speed and vision.
Now to talk about the striking form of Sourav Ganguly co-owned franchisee, it will stand as really disappointing. They failed to score in both the semifinals and that takes their tally to 3 goals in past 7 matches. Their counter-attacking football philosophy will have to get impetus by Jofre, Sahni and Rafi. Cavin Lobo should make his way back into the first teamsheet to make things look much more even.
Luis garcia, if fit, will eye to square things remembering that his sure goal was disallowed previously when these two sides met at Kochi. Will destiny return him a favour or will the underdogs have a final bite to claim?
The quest for answer will begin at 7:00 pm on 20th December, 2014. Christmas will come to India early.