No marquee player in today’s ISL clash between Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United FC

KOCHI: Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United FC will have to do without their marquee players as the teams prepare to face each other in their opening Indian Super League (ISL) game in Kochi on Tuesday.

Carlos Marchena, the Spanish World Cup winner who is now the marquee player for Kerala, injured himself in training and has returned to Spain for treatment.

Simao, on the other hand, is also injured and his club has confirmed that the winger will be unavailable for at least two games in the ISL.

“Simao will probably miss the first two games. We are taking precautionary measures but we are confident he will be back fitter and stronger,” NorthEast head coach Cesar Farias said during the pre-match press conference on  Monday.

Farias, formerly coach of the Venezuela national team, was not panicking due to the loss of former Barcelona and Portugal winger, instead focusing on those who are available.

“We have excellent players who can take his place and help the team deliver,” said the coach.

NorthEast finished at the bottom of the pool last year and are now raring to go. Like the coach said they have enough to take care of injuries as he counts on the likes of French centre-half Cedric Hengbart — who returns to Kerala Blasters now as an opponent — former Newcastle United and Fulham striker Diomansy Kamara, Ghanaian Francis Dadzie and River Plate youth product Nicolas Velez.

Kerala Blasters have maintained a low-profile all season but when the first match kicks-off, NorthEast can expect a very hostile Nehru stadium. The stadium is known to attract a full-house for all ISL matches and Kerala’s opener could be just as intimidating for their rivals.

Coach Peter Taylor has carefully handpicked players who he has seen play in England and they are expected to play a significant role for the team this season.

Peter Ramage, a product of the Newcastle United academy, Christopher Dagnall, goalkeeper Stephen Michael Bywater, Bruno Perone, Antonio German and Marcus Williams have all played in England, while Josue Prieto Currais spent time at Barcelona’s academy and Joao Coimbra did the same at Benfica.

Even among the Indian players, Kerala Blasters have enough to carry the team through. Sandesh Jhingan, their star defender, will miss because of national duty but Mehtab Hossain, Cavin Lobo, CK Vineeth and Gurwinder Singh are all available.

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