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Bengaluru FC, led by Indian skipper Sunil Chettri, starts as the favourites of Indian Super League this year as well. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Kolkata: Bengaluru FC will once again be the team to beat while FC Goa will also forge a strong challenge in the sixth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). But it all begins on Sunday when ATK and Kerala Blasters lock horns in the opening fixture.

Defending champions Bengaluru and runners-up FC Goa, the two teams that stood out last season with their style of play, have retained the core of their squads and should be favourites to the full distance.

There is no denying Bengaluru and Goa are strong contenders, but all teams have made clever moves in the market and the stage has been set for the 2019-20 ISL. No team made as many heads turn as much as ATK. The former champions have signed plenty of top-notch foreign players and look possibly the strongest on paper.

Chennaiyin FC, who finished at the bottom of the pool, have given themselves a new look and appeared hugely competitive during pre-season friendlies.

Let’s look at the ‘favourites’, first. Bengaluru FC should head that list. The Blues have been able to identify areas that need improvement and have strengthened the team with two key signings - Ashique Kuruniyan and Raphael Augusto, both of whom have starred for their former teams in previous ISL seasons.

FC Goa have not added a single new foreigner to their roster and have retained six foreign players from last season, including ace defender Mourtada Fall, midfield maestro Ahmad Jahouh and Golden Boot winner Ferran Corominas. Add the talented Indian bunch consisting of Brandon Fernandes, Mandar Rao Dessai and Manvir Singh to the mix and they have a squad to go one step further than last season.

Last season saw 254 goals being scored by the 10 teams during the league stages and the upcoming season is set to be an even better goal-fest, with every team securing their attack with reputed goal scorers.

NorthEast United FC took many by surprise with the signing of Ghana international and former Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan, who is as proven as there can be when it comes to scoring goals.

Kerala Blasters FC are banking on Bartholomew Ogbeche to solve their woes in front of goal. Only Goa’s Ferran Corominas scored more goals than Ogbeche last season. Mumbai City FC have a prolific scorer in their ranks in Modou Sougou who will be expected to pick up from where he left off last season.

New entrants Hyderabad FC and Odisha FC have managed to assemble a competitive squad in a short span of time.

The 2019-20 ISL will also host a few of the finest tactical brains on the sidelines. NorthEast United have Robert Jarni at the helm, replacing Eelco Schattorie who has joined Kerala Blasters.