Kibu Vicuna’s first ISL challenge will come against his former employers, thanks to ATK’s merger with Mohun Bagan.
With Kerala Blasters gearing up to face ATK Mohun Bagan in the ISL 2020-21 season opener at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim, Goa, two-time ISL winning coach Antonio Lopez Habas has reminded Kibu Vicuna that the top-tier tournament will be a different ball-game altogether.
Vicuna spent his 2019-20 managerial stint with Mohun Bagan, where his attacking brand of football guided the Bengal club to an I-League title last season. While his achievement impressed Kerala Blasters FC enough to land him the managerial role, Habas believes ISL won’t be a smooth run for Vicuna.
"Vicuna did a good job at Mohun Bagan but ISL is a different competition," ATKMB head coach Habas said. "I respect him but our idea is to get the three points because we work every day for that."
With both teams flooded with big names in the roster, the opening game of ISL 2020-21 season is rightly expected to be a thriller.
Mohun Bagan decided to merge with ATK following Vicuna’s successful campaign and followed that act by snapping Kerala Blasters fan favourite Sandesh Jhingan in the ISL transfer window. Hence, the KBFC vs ATKMB clash is bound to see some flares on Friday.
Kibu Vicuna, however, stated that he has nothing but respect for his former club.
"I will always have good sentiments for Mohun Bagan," said Kerala Blasters coach Vicuna. "I was there for a season and they treated me well. I have a lot of friends there in the board, but I'm very happy to be with Kerala Blasters. I'm going to do my best, the people (here) also received me well. I have a good relationship with the members of the club and we're trying to create a good team who will try to play good football."
The ISL 2020-21 season is the first major sporting event in India to return after more than eight months of hiatus. Ironically, this will be the third time in seven ISL seasons that these two teams will face each other in the season-opener.
While ATKMB are an entirely new entity altogether, Kerala Blasters have undergone several changes in the team themselves. Apart from the managerial switch - Vicuna replacing Eelco Schattorie at the helm - the arrival of former Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic striker, Gary Hooper, is expected to make up for the loss of Bartholomew Ogbeche, who will don the Mumbai City FC kit for the 2020-21 season.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @IndSuperLeague