1. Favourites BFC and Goa
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 Ahmed 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 a 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.
2. The surprise packages
Kerala Blasters FC, who are on the back of two disappointing seasons, 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.
3. New teams
New entrants Hyderabad FC and Odisha FC have managed to assemble a competitive squad in a short span of time. Hyderabad has experienced campaigners such as Marcelinho and Marko Stankovic who know the league well and Odisha has a bunch of talented Indian and foreign players with the likes of Marcos Tebar and Xisco Hernandez offering the necessary creative spark.
4. Tactical whiz kids are back
The 2019-20 Hero ISL will also host a few of the finest tactical brains on the sidelines. NorthEast United has Robert Jarni at the helm, replacing Eelco Schattorie who has joined Kerala Blasters. ATK has welcomed back Antonio Habas under whom they lifted the trophy in 2014. Jamshedpur FC have roped in Spanish coach Antonio Iriondo who has more than 25 years of coaching experience in Spain.
The new season will also rekindle old rivalries and set up new ones, with key players of several teams having changed clubs in the summer. Former Jamshedpur duo Sergio Cidoncha and Mario Arques will be seen in Kerala colours, Brazilian Raphael Augusto has left Chennaiyin FC to sign for Bengaluru and Kerala's darling Anas Edathodika will take the field for rivals ATK.
This will be a season with plenty to watch out for. There will be favourites, of course, but this season could be laced with surprises aplenty.