WITH THE I-LEAGUE AS WELL AS ISL set to kick off mid November, teams of both leagues are engaging in pre-season friendlies with each other to prepare themselves for the intense upcoming season.
Earlier, with ISL and I-League seasons taking place one after another, the clubs had vastly differing schedules. But this time, with participants of both leagues going through pre-season together, they have the chance to help each other out.
Trying out new signings, players being tested in different positions and a throw of some model tactics will be few of the things that will be worked upon in these friendly games. Earlier pre-season meant various teams and clubs travelling overseas and play friendly matches. This time ISL teams have opted to play friendly games in India with some of the I-League teams. Since both are playing in separate domestic tournaments, I-League and ISL teams will have a great preparation playing with Indian teams consisting mostly Indians, unlike till last year where foreigners formed majority in ISL teams.
It also helps tackle the issue of acclimatising to the Indian weather for the foreigners who may find it difficult to get accustomed to the harsh temperatures over a period of time. The below cross-domestic league friendly games are unconfirmed and are tentatively scheduled for the next few weeks.
But many of these games will be played behind closed doors. Fans and media will not be allowed to see those matches, and even the final score may not be made public.
Bengaluru FC vs East Bengal: the Federation Cup winners have made a move from I-League to ISL but they have not disengaged with their formal rivals by any means. On 25th October and 27th October, they will welcome two of their bitter opponents from past seasons - Khalid Jamil and East Bengal - in back to back sparring sessions in the Kanteerava Stadium under lockdown. The matches will be played early in the morning and the coaches are expected to play two different squads altogether in the two halves of the game.
Pune City vs East Bengal and Mohun Bagan: The club from Pune is eager to make its mark in ISL this time, and they are inviting two of the most prominent clubs in I-League to sharpen their preparations. They will welcome East Bengal on 30th October and on 6th November the Mohun Bagan team will pay them a visit. Both matches will be played behind closed doors.
FC Goa vs East Bengal and Mohun Bagan: Like Pune, even FC Goa are hungry for silverware after a dismal show in last season's ISL. And for that in early November they will play matches against East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in Goa. The host franchise has not confirmed yet whether or not these will be closed door matches.
Jamshedpur FC vs East Bengal and Mohun Bagan: It seems like every ISL team wants to play friendlies with East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. For newly arrived franchise Jamshedpur FC it's especially easy. They have made Kolkata their base for whenever they are not playing an ISL home game. So they will play both the top division clubs from the city.
NEROCA vs NorthEast United: This encounter between the ISL franchise from Guwahati and the Imphal-best top division debutant is an exception to the usual hush-hush around pre season friendlies. NEROCA hosted NEUFC in a highly anticipated encounter where more than twenty thousand spectators showed up. NEUFC won the match 0-2 after a hard fought battle.