When the defending champions of the Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League champions play as one team, they will definitely be aiming for nothing short than the title.
Kolkata heavyweights ATK and Mohun Bagan who came together to become a new identity - ATK Mohun Bagan - will be playing their first ISL season as defending champions.
ATK is the most consistent performers in the brief history of ISL, having won the prestigious title thrice. On the other hand, Bagan is the most successful football club in India. From being the first Indian side to win the IFA Shield (1911) to clinching the top-flight title four times, the 131-year-old club occupies a hallowed place in the country’s football history.
Interestingly, Kerala Blasters, coached by Kibu Vicuna who guided Mohun Bagan to its final I-League glory, will be their opponents in the inaugural match of the season on Friday.
Heading into the seventh season with a new name and a jersey, ATK Mohun Bagan did not have to splurge on transfers as they have already had a settled look about themselves.
The franchise, co-owned by former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, have retained most of the players from the ISL-winning ATK side. The new squad will also feature some of the exciting young talents who propelled Bagan to the I-League title.
ATK Mohun Bagan's attacks will be orchestrated by the duo of Roy Krishna and David Williams, who were in blistering form for the ISL champions last season, scoring 22 goals between them.
They have also secured the services of India international Manvir Singh to strengthen the attack. The 24-year-old, who has made 47 appearances for FC Goa across three seasons, was brought in as a replacement for Keralite Jobby Justin who was ruled out for the entire season after suffering an injury.
Old and new faces
Familiar faces Edu Garcia and Javier Hernandez will once again be pulling the strings from the middle.
They have also added Australian-born Scottish midfielder Brad Inman to the roster. The 28-year-old has represented Scotland at the Under-19 and Under-21 levels and the Australian national team. He last played for A-League side Brisbane Roar.
Irish player Carl Gerard McHugh, who was retained following a successful season with ATK, is capable of doing a commendable job in both midfield as well as defence.
The team also have four exciting Indian talents - Michael Soosairaj, Pronay Halder, Jayesh Rane, and Michael Regin - to add soldity to their midfield.
ATK Mohun Bagan's defence will feature two seasoned ISL campaigners. However, the Green and Maroon brigade seemingly lack depth in the backline as they have only six genuine defenders in their ranks.
Spaniard Jose Luis Espinosa Arroyo, also known as Tiri, who spent three seasons with Jamshedpur FC after being a part of the erstwhile ATK side that won the ISL title in 2016, has been brought back. This will be the fifth ISL stint for the 29-year-old former Atletico Madrid 'B' team player.
Former Kerala Blasters star defender Sandesh Jhingan is another pivotal addition to the backline. The most-capped Kerala Blasters player, the 27-year-old has been with the club since their inception and has led them in two seasons.
The other defenders in the squad are Pritam Kotal, Subhasish Bose, Sumit Rathi and Prabir Das.
Indian international Arindam Bhattacharya, who recently signed a two-year contract extension, will be their first-choice keeper. The team also have a quality shot-stopper in Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, Indian team's goalkeeper at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Antonio Lopez Habas is one of the most successful managers in the short history of the ISL. The 63-year old Spaniard has guided ATK to victory in the inaugural ISL season in 2014 and in the 2019 edition.
Habas, who has played as a defender in La Liga for Sevilla, Real Murcia and Burgos CF, has had an extensive coaching career where he coached the Bolivian national team and appeared with them at four Copa America tournaments. He was also associated with the youth sides of Valencia CF in La Liga.
Goalkeepers: Arindam Bhattacharya, Dheeraj Singh, Avilash Paul, Arsh Shaikh, and Aryan Lamba.
Defenders: Sandesh Jhingan, Tiri, Pritam Kotal, Prabir Das, Subashish Bose, and Sumit Rathi.
Midfielders: Javi Hernandez, Michael Soosairaj, Boris Singh, Michael Regin, Edu Garcia, Carl McHugh, Glan Martins, Pronay Halder, Brad Inman, Jayesh Rane, Sheikh Sahil, and Ningombam Engson Singh.
Forwards: Roy Krishna, David Williams, Manvir Singh, and Md. Fardin Ali.