Two of the top Indian Super League sides with the biggest fanbases — NorthEast United FC and Kerala Blasters — are set to clash in the opening match of ISL 2016 on Saturday at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. So who will reign supreme — Sachin Tendulkar's side or John Abraham's team?
Going by their recent records, Kerala Blasters have an advantage over NorthEast United FC, as four of their games over the last two years turned out as two wins for Tendulkar's side. The Highlanders, meanwhile, had just one win while the other game turned out to be a goalless draw.
NorthEast United FC have managed to get their signing of the season in the form of experienced coach Nelo Vingada, who is referred to as the 'Professor' for lifting major honours with various teams during his managerial tenure. The 63-year-old Portuguese coach has been a football coach for close to 35 years.
He was the assistant manager to Carlos Queiroz for the Portugal U-20 side that won two FIFA U-20 World Cup crowns in 1989 and 1991. Portugal veteran winger Luis Figo was a part of the squad. Vingada also inspired the well-known Korean side, FC Seoul, to the K League and the League Cup title in 2010.
It remains to be seen whether he can now inspire the Indian football side to greater glory.
Kerala Blasters, who have Steve Coppell as their coach this time around, have a key signing in Aaron Hughes, an experienced defender who plied his trade in Euro 2016 for Northern Ireland. He has made a whopping 455 Premier League appearances so far, while playing for Newcastle United, Fulham and Aston Villa.
Can he turn out to be the game-changer for Kerala Blasters this time around?
NorthEast United FC: For this match, two of their major summer signings, Sasha Aneff and Fabio Neves have been ruled out. While the former has a broken rib, the latter will be sent back as the Brazilian has torn his ACL.
Also, Salam Ranjan Singh and Seityasen Singh will be unavailable as Vingada doesn't want the duo to play risking injury.
Kerala Blasters: Coppell has no major headache ahead of the match as his entire team is fit enough to participate in the game.
NorthEast United FC vs Kerala Blasters is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. IST (2:30 p.m. BST) on October 1.
Where to watch live
India: TV - Star Sports 1/HD, Star Sports 2/HD, Star Sports 3/HD.
Star Gold, Star Utsav (Hindi).
Jalsha Movies (Bengali).
Asianet Movies (Malayalam).
Asianet Suvarna Plus (Kannada).
Live streaming - Hotstar.
Europe: TV - Star Gold.
Australia, USA: TV - Fox Sports
Canada: TV - CBN, ATN Bangla
Bangladesh: TV - Channel 9
South-East Asia: TV - Eurosport