Dubai: Indian Super League (ISL) teams Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United will be among top-flight clubs landing in the UAE, as part of their pre-season preparations for the seventh edition of the league.
The 2019-2020 ISL season will kick off on October 20 and run until March.
Two new teams — Hyderabad FC and Odisha FC — have taken the place of Pune FC and Delhi Dynamos, respectively.
Bengaluru FC are the defending champions after defeating FC Goa 1-0 in last season’s final.
Of the 10 teams this season, only three — Kerala Blasters, NorthEast United and Odisha FC — have opted for outstation camps.
While the teams from Kerala and the North East will be in the UAE from the first week of September, the newly inducted Odisha side have already travelled to Spain followed by a short stint in Qatar.
Coached by Eelco Schattorie, Kerala Blasters are scheduled to land in the UAE for a four-week preparatory camp starting from September 4, while North East United — now coached by Robert Jarni — are expected to land here on September 6.
The Highlanders, co-owned by Dubai-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr George John along with Bollywood actor John Abraham, created history by reaching the semi-finals for the first time last season.
The squad is expected to play in a few friendly matches during their stay in the UAE before flying back to their base in Guwahati in the first week of October for final touches before the season starts.
NorthEast United are expected to do better than last season following the signing of quality players like
Maximiliano Barreiro and Martin Chaves in place of Bartholomew Ogbeche and Rowllin Borges.
Star midfielder Federico Gallego has been retained alongside talented Indians such as Redeem Tlang, Pawan Kumar and Rakesh Pradhan.
Kerala Blasters have lined up at least four friendly matches against local sides, starting with Dibba Fujairah (September 6), Ajman Club (September 12), Emirates Club, Ras Al Khaimah (September 20) and Al Nasr Club (September 27).
Meanwhile, the Delhi Dynamos have been re-christened as Odisha Football Club (OFC) with the club signing a long-term agreement with the Odisha government over the weekend.
The agreement was signed by the sports and youth services department of the state government with the parent company of Delhi Dynamos in Bhubaneswar in the presence of Odisha Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, on Saturday.
The state government is expected to support the club’s relocation through the provision of infrastructural facilities, including training grounds and the Kalinga Stadium as its home ground.
The ISL was established in 2013.