The sixth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) will commence on October 20 with Kerala Blasters hosting ATK in Kochi.
The fixture will kick-start Indian football's new season and will be followed by the I-League beginning on November 16.
ISL comes with notable additions this season. Hyderabad FC and Odisa FC have replaced Pune City and Delhi Dynamos, respectively. And most teams have been proactive in the transfer market. While some focussed on balancing their squads, others managed to add stellar names to the team list.
With less than ten days remaining for kick-off, pre-season sessions are coming to an end as well. But not before a few surprising results in the friendlies, with Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters falling prey to Gokulam Kerala and Real Kashmir, respectively.
Asamoah Gyan is, without doubt, one of the biggest signings of ISL this season. The Ghanaian player has proved his mettle in different parts of the world. Gyan made his professional career debut with Liberty Professionals in Ghana. He then went on to represent Udinese in Serie A, Sunderland in the Premier League and Al Ain FC in UAE.
NorthEast United signed the striker from Turkish club Kayserispor. Gyan will be a handy asset for the Guwahati-based club. Aged 33, he still has the capability to outshine defenders in ISL and his experience alone can be pivotal.
NorthEast's Croatian manager Robert Jarni will be hoping to have a plan that can make most of the striker's abilities, while Gyan will have a mammoth task of replicating Bartholomew Ogbeche's heroics from the previous season in the Highlanders' colours.
Gyan, Ghana's all-time leading goal scorer, will be supported by Maximiliano Barreiro and Panagiotis Triadis from the midfield. If Federico Gallego returns from injury later in the season, NorthEast United will have one of the best attacks in the league.
Lucian Goian is a familiar name in India. The center-back made his move to ISL in 2016, joining Mumbai City. He was an unmoved presence in the team's backline for three consecutive seasons, before Chennaiyin FC acquired the services of the Romanian this off-season.
At Mumbai City, Goian was a perfect defender with 246 tackles and 93 interceptions from 50 matches. The 36-year-old's experience will continue to be his biggest asset. Chennaiyin, two-time champions, had conceded 32 goals last season -- the most by any team -- and finished bottom of the table. This move can be seen as coach John Gregory's first move to rejuvenate the defence.
If the defender manages to combine with Eli Sabia at the heart of the defence for Chennaiyin, they could dream of a third ISL title. Goian's presence of mind and aerial prowess makes him a tough hurdle for attackers.
ATK have failed to qualify for the playoffs in consecutive seasons, with the team's goalscoring abilities always doubted. This has probably forced the management to sign a clinical striker and coach Antonio Lopez Habas has a capable target man for his second stint with the Kolkata club.
The 32-year-old also has perfect support from the midfield in the likes of David Williams and Dario Vidosic.
The PSG academy product has great experience, playing for 13 clubs in his career. He has also represented Nigeria in 11 international matches.
Kerala Blasters have always lacked a good poacher. Their experiments in the striker position have failed to make a telling impact. However, Eelco Schattorie's arrival as manager has gifted them a clinical striker as well.
The expectations on Ogbeche will be high, even though he will have support from Sergio Cidoncha and Mario Arques in midfield. His colleagues in attack -- Raphael Messi Bouli, inexperienced Rahul KP and veteran Mohammed Rafi -- have not been at their best, making Ogbeche the Blasters' most valuable acquisition in the summer.
Augusto first came to CFC in 2015 as a loanee from Brazilian club Fluminese. Impressive performances with the two-time champions made him crucial part of the team. In 62 games, the midfielder made 285 tackles and completed 56 passes per game on average. He also has six goals against his name.
The 28-year old's arrival will make Bengaluru FC's midfield the strongest in the league. BFC already have Dimas Delgado and Erik Paartalu offering services as central midfielders. If Delgado is slotted in an attacking position, Augusto will be the playmaker at the center. The Brazilian will then have the responsibility providing service to Sunil Chhetri, Ashique Kuruniyan and Udanta Singh.
The new signing will add balance to a BFC squad that will miss the services of Miku in attack. Though Augusto will have a secondary role in attack, he will be Carles Cuadrat's creative brain on the field.