Kerala Blasters FC are 5th in the league table with 23 points (6 wins and 5 draws) in 14 matches. They have won three out of their last five matches and are level on points with Bengaluru FC at fourth position, having played a couple of matches less than them. The Blasters lost 3-0 to Jamshedpur FC in their last match. Kerala will look to get back into the top-four after suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of Red Miners in their last outing.
SC East Bengal, sitting 10th in the points table with just 10 points (1 win and 7 draws) to show for from 16 games. The Red and Gold Brigades will have nothing to lose, as it will be about salvaging some pride after being mathematically ruled out of the playoffs race with their 2-1 loss to Odisha FC in their previous game. They have just managed to win one game so far and head coach Mario Rivera will be eager to change that statistic and end the season at a mid-table position.
Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic and fullback Sanjeev Stalin addressed the media during the pre-match press conference ahead of their game against SC East Bengal on Monday, 14th February at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco, Goa. The game will kickoff at 7:30 PM IST.
Below are the excerpts of Vukomanovic from the press conference.
Ivan spoke about how he had to uplift the mood in the camp after their recent defeat to Jamshedpur FC.
“It’s never nice when you lose a game. We were talking about now that we are closer to the end of the season and many small details can make a difference and a lot of these small things can make you win a game or lose the game. This was the case in the last game. We know we have to be fully concentrated for the next game and till the end. It doesn’t matter how we lost the last game now it matters how we respond.”
Ivan spoke about the last game against the Men of Steel and what went wrong for the Blasters.
“It was already clear that the match against Jamshedpur FC would be a physical encounter. They (JFC) use the tactics of getting into the opponent’s box and exploiting the opponent’s mistakes by creating a polluted atmosphere. You have to be careful with every inch when dealing with clubs with this style. It lasted till the end of the first half against Jamshedpur. However, two penalties were awarded at the end of the first half and the first of the second half. Those decisions changed the game completely.
“There will be other teams playing physical competition in the ISL. So we must be prepared to deal with such situations. We will face off against teams with such style in the upcoming matches. Football is a game where anything can happen in 90 minutes. The past is over so we need to just move on. So our focus is now on the next match against SC East Bengal.”
The team was a bit off on intensity in the last game against Jamshedpur FC. Ivan spoke about if it was because of the intensity of the past games or the COVID issues.
“You know we could use it as an excuse but I am not the guy who wants to use those things. When you play against a team like Jamshedpur FC you know that there will be tough duels and a physical game. So, you have to be ready for that kind of fight. We conceded in the last minutes of the first half. You have to be ready for these moments during the game. It doesn’t have anything to do with our fitness levels. We are confident about tomorrow’s game. Every game is important now. We have to be fully concentrated and ready to fight for all duels.”
With Leskovic and Khabra suspended Ivan will have to field a different backline tomorrow. Vukomanovic spoke about how these absentees could affect his plans against SC East Bengal tonight.
“We have enough players in our squad. That’s why we have a large squad. Some other players will take their positions. They know the positions and their tasks. I am not worried. I am confident that the boys can do the job. I am glad that some of them will get a chance to prove themselves. It’s very useful for them to participate in these kinds of games.”
The Blasters head coach said all the players were ready for the match against East Bengal, except for Hormipam, who underwent minor surgery due to injury.
“Everyone except Hormipam is ready to play. Nishu Kumar had been training last day. Only after the training session on Sunday, we will know whether Nishu will play against SC East Bengal or not. It’s, not possible for us to take risks in this crucial stage of the season.”
Rahul KP was ruled out of the first match of the season due to injury. Vukomanovic made it clear that Rahul is training more and is returning to match fitness.
“Rahul’s performance will also be evaluated during the training session on Sunday evening. If things go the right way, Rahul will play against SC East Bengal. We cannot make a quick decision and push him back to injury.”
Here are the excerpts of Sanjeev Stalin from the press conference.
Kerala Blasters have a lot of senior players in your position. Sanjeev spoke about who’s more like a mentor for him.
“Everybody is like a leader. For me Nishu (Kumar) paaji and (Harmanjot) Khabra paaji both are like leaders. I learn things from them. Even people who are of my age, like Jeakson Singh, are mentors to me. I learn many things from them which is very useful for me on the pitch and off it as well.”
In the pre-season, Sanjeev has played in left-back, left-wing, and right-back positions. So if the coach allowed him where would he like to play?
“First of all, as a player, I would love to play the ninety minutes. Of course, every player wants to play games. It’s a good feeling whenever you get a chance to prove yourself and help the team with your abilities. If you’re winning it’s always a beautiful feeling no matter where you play. Whichever position the coach gives me a chance I would love to give my 100%.”
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