Bengaluru, Sep 28: The 2016/17 season of the Indian Super League gets underway on Saturday, October 1 at Guwahati with home side NorthEast United FC taking on Kerala Blasters in the season opener.
The Sourav Ganguly owned side have one of the best teams in the league as they had managed to finish among the top 4 in both the editions.
They have had an overhauling of their squad this time with a new manager at the helm of affairs. Antonio Lopez Habas who as in charge of the side in the last two seasons left for FC Pune City this time.
Atletico de Kolkata have replaced Habas with his compatriot and former Spain international goalkeeper Jose Francisco Molina.
Squad, strongest XI and tactics
The team think tank have made several changes in the squad. A huge chunk of Indian players have left the tea, making way for a new set of players.
Some notable names include, Indian national team defenders Pritam Kotal and Keegan Perreira, Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Debjit Majumder and central midfielder Bikramjit Singh.
Atletico have retained the services of ace midfielder Borja Fernandes who will continue to don the red white stripes for the third consecutive season. Borja's midfield partner Ofentse Nato too has been retained.
The team has once again kept their faith on marquee player Helder Postiga who had played just 1 game for the team last time.
Full Squad: Dani Mallo, Debjit Majumder, Shilton Paul; Arnab Mondal, Jose Luis Espinosa, Keegan Perreira, Kinshuk Debnath, Pablo Gallardo, Prabir Das, Pritam Kotal, Robert Lalthlamuana; Abinash Ruidas, Bidyananda Singh, Bikash Jairu, Bikramjit Singh, Borja Fernandez, Javi Lara, Lalrindika Ralte, Ofentse Nato, Sameehg Doutie, Jewel Raja, Stephen Pearson; Iain Hume, Helder Postiga (Marquee), Juan Belencoso.
Strongest possible XI (4-3-3): Debjit Majumder; Pritam Kotal, Arnab Mondal, José Luis Espinosa (Tiri), Keegan Perreira; Bikramjit Singh, Ofentse Nato, Borja Fernandez; Iain Hume, Helder Postiga, Juan Belencoso.
Jose Molina, who was in charge of Hong Kong's Kitchee SC, have brought in his entrusted striker Juan Belencoso.
The Spanish manager loves to play attacking football in a 4-3-3 formation as we have seen in his previous stint with Kitchee.
With Molina's arrival, we can expect a complete change of tactics and a new style of gameplay from Atletico de Kolkata.
The team boasts of a very strong defence with quite a few quality defenders like Pritam Kotal, Arnab Mondal and Keegan Perreira. Spanish defender, who was impressive with his last stint with the Kolkata side will accompany Arnab in the central defence.
In the midfield, the duo of Borja Fernandez and Ofentse Nato will continue to mesmerise the fans and new addition Bikramjit Singh will accompany them.
In the frontline, last season's best player Iain Hume will start along with marquee player and Portuguese star Helder Postiga and new recruit Juan Belencoso
Players to watch out for
The Canadian international has been one of the best foreign players in the Indian Super League. After an impressive performance with Kerala Blasters in the debut season, Iain Hume shifted to Kolkata last time.
Hume, known for his explicit skill and goal scoring ability proved to be a real asset for Kolkata last time and had almost guided to another final.
All eyes will be on the attacker who holds the potential of creating a difference in a match single-handedly.
The Real Madrid graduate will wear the Atletico de Kolkata jersey for the third consecutive season. Borja Fernandes remains one of the most underrated players in the league who has had a great impact on the franchisee's consistent performance so far.
The midfield maestro will once again start at the heart of Kolkata's midfield and control the game.
Young players to look out for
Abinash Ruidas makes his ISL debut this time as he has roped in by Atletico de Kolkata from I-League giants East Bengal.
Ruidas gained fame two seasons back when he made his debut in red and gold colour under the then East Bengal manager Armando Colaco.
The Bengal winger played quite a few matches in the I-League in the past two seasons and displayed good performances. He was part of Indian U23 in the AFC U23 championship qualifier match.
Bidyananda Singh is one of the best young Indian prodigies at the moment. Known as the Keisuke Honda of India, the Manipuri youngster played in the Aspire Academy and was part of the academy's all-star XI.
ISL will be a great exposure for Bidyananda who will get the opportunity of rubbing shoulders with some quality international players and learn the trade from them.
Full Fixtures of Atletico de Kolkata
Atletico de Kolkata Vs Chennaiyin FC - October 2 (Home)
Kerala Blasters Vs Atletico de Kolkata - October 5 (Away)
Mumbai City FC Vs Atletico de Kolkata - October 11 (Away)
Atletico de Kolkata Vs FC Goa - October 16 (Home)
Atletico de Kolkata Vs Delhi Dynamos - October 22 (Home)
Atletico de Kolkata Vs Mumbai City FC - October 25 (Home)
NorthEast United FC Vs Atletico de Kolkata - October 28 (Away)
FC Pune City Vs Atletico de Kolkata - November 6 (Away)
Delhi Dynamos Vs Atletico de Kolkata - November 13 (Away)
Atletico de Kolkata Vs NorthEast United - November 17 (Home)
Chennaiyin FC Vs Atletico de Kolkata - November 20 (Away)
FC Goa Vs Atletico de Kolkata - November 24 (Away)
Atletico de Kolkata Vs Kerala Blasters - November 29 (Home)
Atletico de Kolkata Vs FC Pune City - December 2 (Home)
We predict a possible top four finish for Jose Molina's side who has a really compact side at his disposal.