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ISL 2015: Revamped Kerala Blasters eye a mistake-free season

Kerala Blasters have been the most active club from the league during the summer and have made a flurry of new signings to make them a strong contender for the title.

Vivek Mishra | IBNLive.com@VVK29

Updated:September 24, 2015, 8:17 AM IST
ISL 2015: Revamped Kerala Blasters eye a mistake-free season
Kerala Blasters have been the most active club from the league during the summer and have made a flurry of new signings to make them a strong contender for the title.

Kerala Blasters were not among the favourites to win the inaugural season of the Indian Super League (ISL); but after a poor start, they made a brilliant comeback and shocked Chennaiyin FC in the semis before Atletico de Kolkata defeated them in the final with a last-minute winner.

Kerala had won only one of their first five matches in the league and were expected to be knocked out but the team, co-owned by star Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, fought back and peaked at the right time to end up as runners-up of ISL 2014.

Kerala Blasters have been the most active club from the league during the summer and have made a flurry of new signings to make them a strong contender for the title. They begin their campaign under British coach Peter Taylor in this edition of the ISL and their opening encounter will be at home against NorthEast United FC on October 6 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.

Here is a look at the Kerala Blasters’ squad before the start of ISL season 2:

Strengths: The new signings they have made during the summer will add more speed to their midfield and players from Europe and South America will raise the standard of their game. The club completed the signing of former Barcelona youth academy player Josue Currais Prieto in the last week of August. The Spanish midfielder is not their only signing this summer. He joins the list players which include former Newcastle defender Peter Ramage, former QPR youth player Antonio German, ex-Benfica midfielder Joao Coimbra, former Arsenal winger/striker Sanchez Watt, Brazilian defender Bruno Perone and English striker Chris Dagnall.

Peter Taylor, the new head coach of Kerala Blasters, brings in a huge experience of playing and managing at the top level. Other than managing teams in the English Premier League, Taylor has also managed the England Under-20 and Under-21 teams and has been the coach of the senior England national team for a match. The former Leicester City and Hull City coach took over the team's managerial position from the joint stewardship of David James and Trevor Morgan.

Another strong point for the club is their huge fanbase. Kerala Blasters are one of the most popular clubs in the league and their home stadium in Kochi, which has a seating capacity of 75,000, was almost full on most of the occasions. The Kerala fans also came out in big numbers in their team’s away matches and were a big reason in Kerala Blasters making a comeback last season.

Weaknesses: One of the major problems for the Blasters last season was their inconsistency. They could manage to win only two matches in a row and after losing their first three, they were expected to be knocked out. They made a good fightback to reach the knockout stages but were still an unpredictable side that could defeat big teams on their day; but there was no surety if they could repeat their performance match after match. After taking a 3-0 lead against Chennaiyin FC in the first leg of the semis, Kerala Blasters conceded three goals in the second leg and were in big trouble before Paul Pearson's 117th minute strike sealed their spot in the final.

Iain Hume was their star performer last year and his stunning show in the forward line helped Kerala Blasters turn the tables in their favour. The Canadian striker, who was awarded with the Golden Ball last season for his brilliant performance, has been signed by last year’s winner Atletico de Kolkata and his former team is going to miss him badly. They have signed a few good strikers in the form of Mohammed Rafi, Sanchez Watt and Chris Dagnall but they may still not be able to fill Hume’s shoes.

Last year Kerala Blasters’ goalkeepers David James and Sandeep Nandy were both above 40 and the agility needed near the goalpost was missing. They had let the opposition make a comeback by conceding goals at crucial moments. This year the club has signed Mohun Bagan’s 27-year-old Shilton Paul and 34-year-old English goalkeeper Stephen Bywater. They are still new in the team and it will take some matches to see how well they gel with the squad.

Marquee player: After their player-coach and marquee player David James decided not to participate in the second edition of ISL, Kerala Blasters signed Spain’s World Cup-winning member Carlos Marchena a day before the deadline for signing the marquee players ended.

The former Valencia central defender has an attacking style of play and can also play in the midfield. He was a regular member of the Spanish national side from 2002 to 2011 and has won two La Liga titles during his nine-year stint at Valencia.

Other players to watch out for

Sanchez Watt: The 24-year-old is a product of Arsenal’s youth academy and can play as a centre forward and also on the wings. He was a key member of the Arsenal’s under-18 double win during 2008-09 and has played on loans for Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday. In Hume's absence, he will have a key role to play for the team in ISL second edition.

Jossue Currais Prieto: The former Barcelona youth academy player, who plays in the midfield, was at the La Masia academy for two years between 2009 and 2011. His last club was the Polish top division side Gornik Leczna. The 22-year-old will add more pace to Kerala Blasters midfield and will also help them create more chances for the strikers.

Mohammed Rafi: Rafi has been a regular member if Indian national football team and was also part of Atletico de Kolkata that defeated Kerala Blasters to win the inaugural edition of ISL. The 33-year-old will be one of the the main strikers for Kerala this season. He has played for clubs like Churchill Brothers, Mahindra United and Mumbai FC and was also the player of

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Stephen Bywater, Shilton Paul

Defenders: Carlos Marchena (Marquee Player), Bruno Perone, Sandesh Jhingan, Peter Ramage, Marcus Williams, Gurwinder Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Saumik Dey.

Midfielders: Jossue Currais Prieto, Mehtab Hossein, Joao Coimbra, Calvin Lobo, Shankar Sampingiraj, Ishfaq Ahmed, Peter Carvalho, Victor Herrero Forcada.

Forwards: Mohammed Rafi, Sanchez Watt, Antonio German, CK Vineeth, Chris Dagnall, Mandeep Singh.

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