Kerala Blasters FC have won two, lost two, and drawn once in their last five matches this season. They are currently placed in the fifth spot, with 27 points from 17 games, which includes seven wins and six draws. The Blasters were handed a 1-2 loss by Hyderabad FC in their previous game, which dented their semi-final bid. The equation now is simple, they need to win all the remaining three matches in order to go through. However, in the fiercely contested ISL, that will be easier said than done.
The two times former champions have lost three and drawn two of their last five matches this season. Chennaiyin FC are out of contention for a top-four finish and will have only pride to play for in their remaining matches. Chennaiyin FC’s motivation would be to break the six-match winless streak, with their last victory coming against NorthEast United FC, more than a month ago. The Marina Machans ranks eighth on the points table with 20 points from 18 matches, which includes 5 wins and 5 draws. Chennaiyin FC had a 4-1 hammering against Jamshedpur FC in their last match.
Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic and young midfielder Ayush Adhikari addressed the media in the pre-match press conference ahead of their game against Chennaiyin FC on Saturday at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco, Goa. Below are the excerpts from the press conference.
Every match is a potential do-or-die for Kerala Blasters FC. Ivan spoke about how he looks into the upcoming match from the standpoint of physical and fitness level.
“So, it was not easy, especially with the COVID-19 outbreak in our camp with 15-day isolation and with the ISL format, the rescheduling of games, actually, you don’t have time to train, you don’t have time to train with quality, you don’t have time to have those overload sessions with the whole group. You can only train with one small group at one point. With all these things, you have to puzzle on an individual basis, many aspects, and then prepare the group.
“So, if we speak about from when this year (2022) began, it was kind of improvisation because the schedule and the calendar doesn’t allow you to have that long-term vision. So you have to do game by game, use the players who are fresh, get them ready on a fitness level and that’s it.”
Kerala Blasters FC have struggled to maintain the tempo of the game for the first 20 minutes. Ivan spoke about it and if he feels this is a concerning factor.
“No, because now we are in the part of the season where everyone suffers a bit and like I just mentioned, with the schedule, especially after the New Year (in 2022), with the number of games, and not enough days for quality training sessions and adding to that the COVID-19 outbreak, where you as a team lose many important things in your training process, then you have to manage.
“Many teams were going and playing with a fresh mind in the earlier stages and now towards the end, we see many teams suffering from injuries with fitness and everything. So it’s normal to see certain things. That’s why we are also now trying to give playing time to all the players to be able to have fresh legs on the field and so, we are trying to manage things like that.”
Chennaiyin FC are out of the title race and will be playing without any pressure in the upcoming game. Ivan spoke about if they are going to be a tough opponent.
“Well, you know, every game for us is difficult and Saturday’s match will be no different. So since we started, we had to fight for every point, we had to fight against all opponents, we had to fight for every inch of the field. So, I think that now playing against the teams who are mathematically out of the semi-finals, doesn’t make a difference because these guys are also fighting for the jersey, they’re fighting for the logo they’re wearing on the chest.
“It’s a football game, we go to fight for the points. Chennaiyin FC is one of the teams who I believe should be higher on the table – they are a good team, very tough to beat. But the circumstances and schedule sometimes don’t allow you to do that.”
Kerala Blasters FC have collected only one point out of a possible six from the last two matches. Ivan spoke on if he feels the team was unlucky in that regard.
“Well, you know that there are some, for example, in football, the beauty and ugly side of football is that nobody guarantees you that if you play nice that you will win the game, and there is no guarantee that the team will win. So that’s the ugly side of the football. So, in the two games, controlling the game, creating chances, we’ll talk about things. You know, today, we were talking about those things yesterday, you know, maybe a couple of days, but later on what stays on the paper, it’s the result, you know, and we didn’t get the points, we were creating those chances, because you work hard on a training session and game to create chances to be able to score goals.
“So from the other side, if you speak about luck, I firmly believe that luck is an important factor in a football game. Also, I believe for the luck you deserve, you have to work hard. And when you get those chances, maybe you will get the luck to score. So it wasn’t working in our favour in the last two games. So we cannot complain.”
Ahead of the game, Vukomanovic was asked for his evaluation of the season so far.
“Since we arrived, we needed to recognize the level, quality, strengths, weakness of our team, to meet all the other teams, improve youngsters and work on improving aspects of our game. We wanted to achieve a certain level and improve certain things, which we did. We were not occupied with statistics. When you create a team that wants to be top of the table, it takes time. In ISL times, it’s not possible to (immediately) change certain things and in football, instant results don’t last. We as a club want to achieve certain things that will last in the longer term, with the players and the Kerala community.
“We have improved a lot and we can talk about points and rankings but I think we’ve done a good job. We have three more games to go, we can achieve more, do our best, and give our maximum till the end. But we are happy with the work and the boys. The 50+ people in this bubble created one good group with good energy and we want to keep building it with consistency.“
Blasters’ midfielder Ayush Adhikari also attended the press conference and responded to the questions put forward by the media. Below are his excerpts from the press conference.
Ayush played in the last game against one of the best teams this season. He shared his experience from the game.
“Personally, it was a good feeling to start a game. And as a player, it’s always good when you play and to play against a team like Hyderabad, which was like the top of the table and with the good quality players in the position. So it was a tough game for us. But I think it was good because alongside, I had many good players as well when we created many chances. Personally, it was a good experience for me to get to game time in those kinds of games.”
Ayush has been playing for Kerala Blasters FC for the second consecutive season. The youngster spoke on how different it has been playing under Ivan Vukomanovic.
“Yeah, I think it is. It is good for me to work hard since day one of the pre-season. And finally getting game time in these kinds of matches, which is so important for the club. And I’m happy that I’m available for the games. And I think it’s always good for a player when he plays whenever he gets game time. As a coach, I’m thankful for the trust and the belief he has shown in me for providing me the game time. And yes, it’s all good.”
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