Indian Super League 2015 – the buildup has been running for a while, and here we are, finally, a day away from the league to beat all leagues in India kicking off. Chennaiyin FC – the team that finished top of the tree in the league phase last season – and Atletico de Kolkata – the side that went all the way to become the inaugural ISL champions – will get the ball rolling on Saturday, and the next couple-and-a-bit months promises to be non-stop, don't-take-your-eyes-off-it, plenty-of-goals action.
The ISL gave a facelift to Indian football last year, of that there is no doubt. If the same enthusiasm remains for the second season, only time will tell. One way to make sure that is the case, is by putting on a footballing show in the pitch.
All the celebrity stuff off the pitch is well and good, but at the end of the day, what will make this ISL – whether it is for the long-term or not is another question – a sustained success is quality on the pitch, and with both Chennaiyin FC and Atletico de Kolkata having some superstar players in the lineup, expect some cracking football to start it all off.
Marco Materazzi did exceptionally well to keep Chennaiyin the best team of the league last season, despite the fact that they lost their best player – Elano – for the second half of the season. While it all went wrong in the first leg of the semifinal against the Kerala Blasters, what Chennaiyin has done right this season is to keep the core intact, knowing full well, another season, playing with the same coach and largely the same team will give them an upper hand on the other teams, most of whom have made wholesale changes.
Atletico de Kolkata also have plenty of the old faces returning, chief of them being the midfield maestro Borja. If Borja is able to run the show in this season of the ISL for Atletico de Kolkata, the champions will make a good fight of defending their title.
Sourav Ganguly's side, though, are going into this first match with a bit of a question mark on a few of their players – how bad the injuries are we will know a little later in the day -- and both teams are likely to be a little apprehensive, considering it is the first match of what is going to be a long couple of months.
ISL 2015 Match 1 schedule: Chennaiyin FC vs Atletico de Kolkata
Time: 7 pm IST (2.30 pm BST, 9.30 am ET).
Venue: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.
TV listings: Star Sports network (Star Sports 1, Star Sports 2, Star Sports 3, and the HD channels, Star Gold, Asianet, Jaya Max, Jalsha Movies, Suvarna Plus and a lot, lot more in India).