Kochi: The sixth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) is all set to kick off with a blockbuster fixture which sees two-time finalists Kerala Blasters FC take on two-time winners ATK at the Jawaharlal Nehru international stadium in Kochi on Sunday (October 20).

With a huge and expectant fanbase looking on eagerly, Blasters’ new coach Eelco Schattorie knows that he has a considerable task on his hands.

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The Dutchman, after a successful season with NorthEast United, is expected to work his magic with the Kochi-based outfit. And what better way than starting with a win over ATK who have one of the strongest squads on paper this year.

“Opening games are always difficult, there is going to be huge expectations. That is part of the game. It is all about stabilising the team, I think we are ready to face ATK. They have a very strong squad and are one of the best teams in the league,” Schattorie said.

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Blasters last reached the play-offs in 2016 and have made quite a few managerial appointments in their bid to reach the last four in recent times. Schattorie is aware of the fact and is hoping that he can bring an element of stability to the club.

“ATK, NEUFC and Kerala have had the most amount of coaches. So, it is all about getting stability. Here, I have a good relationship with management. I think we have better depth than I had last year.

“It is not like a tomato soup where I can copy all the ingredients (from a successful season with NorthEast). The whole team is almost new. But I am ready to take up the challenge.”

Blasters have revamped their entire foreign contingent, bringing in some established names like Bartholomew Ogbeche, Gianni Zuiverloon, Mario Arques and the likes apart from a few promising players like Raphaël Messi Bouli.

They also have a few young Indian stars like Sahal Abdul Samad. But the absence of Sandesh Jhingan will be a huge blow for them. Though they have brought in a replacement in Raju Gaikwad, Schattorie concedes that their preparations have been far from ideal.

“We have a great team, we bought good foreigners. Preseason was not how I wanted it to be. We did not have the perfect preparation. We had some foreign players arriving with injuries. We are 2-3 weeks behind, we need to catch up.

“I have worked with Raju before and we needed another centre back with experience. His fitness is not up to the mark and he didn’t have a preseason. But the atmosphere is in the squad is good.”

Match starts 7.30 pm IST