ISL 2021-22: Strength, weakness, key players and what to expect from each team

Mumbai City FC celebrate with the league winners' trophy after beating ATK Mohun Bagan. Faheem Hussain / Sportzpics for ISL

It's that time of the year again. Ahead of the latest season of the ISL, ESPN looks at the major factors that could affect each of the eleven teams in the league. We pick out 6 aspects - the coach, one player to watch out for in each team, the team's biggest strength, the one nagging worry that could hold them back this season, what to watch out for, and their most exciting new signing. Oh, and we give a way-too-early predictions that you absolutely shouldn't hold against us come the end of the season.

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(Note: The teams appear in the order they finished the league stage last season.)

Mumbai City FC

Coach: (NEW) Des Buckingham. Replaces double-winning Sergio Lobera and has a lot to live up to.

Player: Ahmed Jahouh. Nobody runs an ISL game quite like him.

Strength: That midfield oozes class. The signing of Apuia makes them even better.

Worry: Mohammad Nawaz is a very talented keeper, but can he provide the unrelenting solidity that Amrinder Singh did?

W2W4: Buckingham adapting to the ISL; Jahouh in midfield without his usual partner-in-crime, Hugo Boumous.

Signing: Igor Angulo. Comes with goals guaranteed.

Prediction: Playoffs

ATK Mohun Bagan

Coach: Antonio Habas. Finalist last season. Missed out on the league shield only on Head-to-Head. He'll want his trophy back this time.

Player: Roy Krishna. You've heard the name before.

Strength: An incredible squad, with quality across positions.

Worry: Habas can be overly pragmatic at times. Them taking a proper beating in the AFC Cup a few months ago is not going to help change that.

W2W4: The Boumous-Krishna connection.

Signing: Hugo Boumous. The best player in the league when he wants to be.

Prediction: League winners + Champions

NorthEast United FC

Coach: (NEWish) Khalid Jamil. The first fully-fledged Indian head coach in ISL history. No pressure, then.

Player: Federico Gallego. The best player in the squad -- a playmaker who can make things happen.

Strength: Jamil's tactical nous and track record of success with unproven Indian talent.

Worry: Who will replace Apuia in the heart of midfield?

W2W4: Jamil's charge on behalf of the Indian coaching fraternity.

Signing: Hernan Santana. Superb on the ball and an able leader at the back, he'll provide stability.

Prediction: Top half, fighting for playoffs.

FC Goa

Coach: Juan Ferrando. Comes into the season off the high of winning the Durand Cup.

Player: Muhammed Nemil. May not start many games, but his potential is off the charts.

Strength: Good coach, solid squad and well prepared. They have had the most thorough pre-season of any club in the league.

Worry: Can Airam Cabrera provide the goals that Angulo did last season?

W2W4: Their exciting core of young Indian players.

Signing: Dylan Fox. Was superb in central defence for NorthEast last year.

Prediction: Playoffs

Hyderabad FC

Coach: Manuel Marquez Roca. Sensational last season, will look to build on it.

Player: Bartholomew Ogbeche. Goals, goals, goals.

Strength: They've plugged holes in the squad with some smart additions -- Juanan, Edu Garcia, Ogbeche.

Worry: They will miss the game-changing electricity of Liston Colaco.

W2W4: Can they perform at the same high level with the pressure that added expectation brings with it?

Signing: Ogbeche. He really is that good.

Prediction: Top half, fighting for playoffs.

Jamshedpur FC

Coach: Owen Coyle. Builds fun, attacking teams. Was a tad unlucky last season.

Player: Nerijus Valskis

Strength: A varied attack that has plenty of goals in it.

Worry: The midfield remains a touch light weight.

W2W4: Coyle demands his teams play entertaining football. What's not to look forward to?

Signing: Jordan Murray. Showed glimpses of his talent with the Blasters last season, will be looking to push on.

Prediction: Top half, fighting for playoffs.

Bengaluru FC

Coach: (NEW) Marco Pezzaiouli. Believes in high-pressing, high-tempo football.

Player: Sunil Chhetri. Always, Sunil Chhetri.

Strength: A squad full of young, exciting Indian talent.

Worry: Their strength is also a potential weakness. Can the inexperienced squad handle the pressure?

W2W4: BFC have not come off a worse season ever in their short history. How will they respond?

Signing: Yrondu Musavu-King. He needs to be on his A-game to help BFC shore up an uncharacteristically leaky defence.

Prediction: Bottom half

Chennaiyin FC

Coach: (NEW) Bozidar Bandovic. Tactically astute, proven winner - won multiple trophies at Buriram United in Thailand.

Player: Anirudh Thapa. Newly anointed as team captain, Thapa will look to cement his status as India's best midfielder.

Strength: The midfield. It has a delightful mix of solidity and creativity that should serve the team well.

Worry: They created plenty of chances last season, but converted next to nothing. Will that change?

W2W4: This is how their last five seasons ended (starting from the last) -- eighth, finalist, tenth, champions, seventh. If the trend holds, we're looking at contenders for the title.

Signing: Jobby Justin. Chennaiyin really need some goals and a fully fit Justin gets you just that.

Prediction: Bottom half

SC East Bengal

Coach: (NEW) Manolo Diaz. Has a lot of experience with junior teams in Spain, but this is a whole different ball game.

Player: Arindam Bhattacharya. The ex-ATK Mohun Bagan keeper can provide calm leadership from the back.

Strength: The squad has a healthier, more balanced look to it than last time around.

Worry: The team was cobbled together at the last minute, much like last season. That leaves them woefully underprepared for the new campaign.

W2W4: They've had a clean slate. Will that help them improve this time around?

Signing: Amarjit Singh. Seeing his contemporaries from the class of 2017, Suresh Singh and Apuia, cement their places in the Indian national team should spur Amarjit on.

Prediction: Fighting to stay off the bottom

Kerala Blasters

Coach: (NEW) Ivan Vukamanovic. Will he get the time (needed to steady a very rocky ship) that Kibu Vicuna did not?

Player: Rahul KP. Was their most enterprising player last season and has the talent to build an attacking unit around.

Strength: There's potential in the creative areas, but it's hard to nail down one genuine strength.

Worry: The team looks lightweight up front.

W2W4: Can Vukamonovic address the consistent downward spiral the team seems to be caught in?

Signing: Enes Sipovic. The Blasters defence was a horror show last season. Sipovic will be key to ensuring there's no sequel.

Prediction: Fighting to stay off the bottom

Odisha FC

Coach: (NEW) Francisco Ramirez Gonzalez. Challenge #1 for the new man would be to help a defence that conceded 44 goals (!) in 20 games last season.

Player: Jerry Mawihmingthanga. The best of a bunch of young Indian talent.

Strength: See Blasters, Kerala.

Worry: There's an underwhelming feel to the squad and a lot will depend on the connection Gonzalez makes with the young Indian talent.

W2W4: What exactly will David Villa bring to Odisha as head of Global Football operations?

Signing: Javi Hernandez. His consistent attacking quality is just what Odisha missed last season.

Prediction: Fighting to stay off the bottom