The seventh edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). The most distinguished football tournament in a country of 1.4 billion inhabitants in which cricket is the king of sport will be played for the first time behind closed doors and in a single venue: Goa. The objective, to avoid the possible problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It won’t be easy at all. The stadiums of Jawaharlal Nehru (Margao), GMC Athletic Stadium (Bambolim) and Tilak Maidan (Vasco da Gama) will host the 115 scheduled matches: The 11 participants will face each other twice and, after 20 rounds, the first four finishers will play a ‘play-off’ to decide the champion. The ISL can be followed from Spain through the platform Yupp tv. In other territories such as the United States, Canada or Australia it can be seen on ESPN + or Fox Sports. The inclusion of East Bengal and the merger of ATK with Mohun Bagan will make their rivalry, with more than 130 years of history, continue in the Super League. Seven of the 11 benches will be occupied by Spanish coaches. Antonio López Habas (ATKMB) defends the title.
ATK Mohun Bagan – Antonio López Habas
After winning its third Indian Super League, ATK confirmed its merger with Mohun Bagan, one of the oldest clubs in Asia. The result: ATK Mohun Bagan, an institution where history and the hunger to continue winning titles converge. Antonio López Habas, the only coach who knows what it is to win the ISL twice, will continue to lead the team based in Calcutta, which will continue to have Edu García and Javi Hernández and reinforced his defense with Tiri Espinosa, back at the club with which he touched the sky in 2016. “Without spectators, the league loses its shine, but it is a situation that nobody can change. It is better to play without an audience than not to play. The players must go out onto the field with the same ambition, “said López Habas in the previous weeks, who has Manuel Cascallana (assistant), Ángel Hernández (goalkeeper coach), Álvaro Ros (physical coach) and Luis on his staff. Alfonso (physiotherapist).
Bengaluru – Carles Cuadrat
Another team that hopes to fight to enter the ‘play-off’ for the title is Bengaluru, on whose bench Carles Cuadrat will sit for the third consecutive season (fifth if we take into account the two in which he was Albert Roca’s assistant) . The ‘blues’, who conquered the title in 2019 but fell in the semifinals of the last edition, reinforced their lead with Cleiton Silva and Kristian Opseth and the center of the rear with Fran González from Cordoba, who can also play as a pivot and arrives to the ISL after being proclaimed champion of the I-League with Mohun Bagan. González, author of 15 goals last year, will add to one of the great virtues of Bengaluru de Cuadrat: the set piece. Along with the Catalan, who went through the FC Barcelona quarry and worked together with Frank Rijkaard at Galatasaray and the Saudi Arabian national team, he has Javi Pinillos (assistant), Julen Esnaola (goalkeeper coach), Mikel Guillem on his coaching staff. (physical trainer) and Senen Fernández (physiotherapist). Juanan and Dimas Delgado complete the list of Spanish footballers.
FC Goa – Juan Ferrando
After flirting with the alirón in 2015 and 2019, FC Goa turned to Juan Ferrando with the aim of finally lifting its first Indian Super League. The Catalan coach returns to the benches after several months of hiatus due to a bacterium that made him lose his vision, which led him to leave a Volos NFC to which he rose from Third to the Greek First Division in just two seasons. The ‘gaurs’ will have to overcome the loss of Ferran Corominas, who left the club after three seasons in which he scored 48 league goals. His replacement will be another Spanish: Igor Angulo. After four seasons and 88 goals with the Górnik Zabrze shirt, the 36-year-old from Bilbao signed his last major contract in India. He is expected to be the star of a team in which he will be supported by Iván González, Alberto Noguera, Jorge Ortiz and Edu Bedia, who faces his fourth season in Goa and was elected captain. The Valladolid Javier González, with a past in the Taiwan team, will act as physical trainer of the only team that will play as ‘local’.
Hyderabad – Manolo Marquez
Hyderabad, formerly Pune City, will also have a Spanish coach, Manolo Márquez. The Barcelona player came to the Indian team after Albert Roca, in charge of directing this course, received an offer to join Ronald Koeman’s staff as a physical trainer at FC Barcelona. Márquez, who directed UD Las Palmas before starting an adventure that in recent years led him to direct in Croatia and Thailand, will not have the pressure of putting the team in the play-off for history. But nevertheless, the signings of Aridane Santana, who played a great role in Odisha, and Fran Sandaza and Odei Onaindia, who arrive after competing in Second with Alcorcón and Mirandés respectively, force the club to fight. Lluis Sastre completes the list of Spanish footballers from Hyderabad, whose ‘staff’ includes Xavier Gurri (assistant), José Carlos Barroso (physical trainer) and Marc Gamón (goalkeeper coach).
Kerala Blasters – Kibu Vicuña
You have to go back to 2016 to see Kerala Blasters contest the play-off for the Indian Super League title. That is why the Cochín-based club signed a coach like Kibu Vicuña from Gipuzkoa to its bench, who made the leap to the ISL after proclaiming himself I-League champion with Mohun Bagan in an impeccable season in which he only lost one encounter in 16 days -12 victories, three draws and one defeat-. To return to the top of the ISL, Kibu formed a team in which youth and seniority converge. Former Celtic or Premier League player Gary Hooper, the competition’s MVP, will be one of Kerala’s great draws, who will continue to count on Sergio Cidoncha and reinforced his midfield with the Canarian Vicente Gómez.
Mumbai City – Sergio Lobera
After being left out of the ‘play-offs’ last year, Mumbai City, 65% owned by City Football Group Since 2019, he has carried out a deep restructuring that included a change in the bench and the arrival of seven new foreigners: the Englishman Adam Le Fondre, the Moroccans Ahmed Jahouh and Hugo Boumous, the Nigerian Bartholomew Ogbeche, the Japanese Cy Goddard, the Senegalese Mouierta Fall and spanish Hernan Santana, who will live his first adventure abroad after playing the last two seasons with Sporting in Second. Sergio Lobera has a great poster in India, where he was already at the controls of FC Goa. With the ‘gaurs’ he won a Super Cup and his collaboration was essential for the team to achieve a place in the group stage of the AFC Champions League. Disagreements with the directive ended his journey in Goa, where he returns to play the seventh edition of the ISL. His coaching staff includes Tato Rodríguez (assistant), Manuel Sayabera (physical trainer) and Juanma Cruz (goalkeeper coach).
NorthEast – Gerard Nus
Gerard Nus is a newcomer to the ISL, but his great experience with coaches such as Rafa Benítez, Gustavo Poyet and Avram Grant earned him respect among Indian football fans. The youngest coach in the competition (35 years old), who has already worked on five continents, will be in charge of NorthEast, one of the founding clubs of the ISL. Guwahati’s men, however, have never achieved great results and their best position was fourth place in the 2018/19 season, when they fell in the semifinals at the hands of Bengaluru, ultimately champion. NorthEast has managed to make a “perfect” squad in the words of its own coach, who hopes to reach the ‘play-offs’ “so that our fans can be proud”. The ‘highlanders’ covered the quota of foreigners with Benjamin Lambot, Kwesi Appiah, Idrissa Sylla, Khassa Camara, Luis Machado and Dylan Fox. The Spaniards Iván Piñol (physical trainer) and Asier Rey (goalkeeper coach) work alongside Nus.
It also has Spanish Jamshedpur, where Julián Villar-Aragón and Ezequiel Gómez act as sports director and goalkeeper coach respectively. In the staff of the red miners, led by Scotsman Owen Coyle, they continue David Big Y Aitor Monroy, who believes that “it is time to change history and enter the ‘play-offs'”. He will also seek to fight for the title Odisha, which permanently incorporated Manuel Onwu. The Navarrese already played at the club the final stretch of last season on loan from Bengaluru and in four games he scored seven goals and distributed two assists, which places him as one of the most effective forwards in the history of the ISL (0.70 goals per game).