Kerala Blasters are placed 3rd on the points table. In their last game, they had a 1-0 loss in the Southern derby against Bengaluru FC. The team played the game after a difficult 15 days span where there was a COVID outburst in the camp. Now the team has recovered from that and will be facing NorthEast United FC in their next game on Friday, 4th February at the Tilak Maidan Stadium, Vasco.
The Highlanders, meanwhile, are placed 11th in the standings and had a 5-0 embarrassing loss against Hyderabad FC in their last game. Khalid Jamil’s side will be looking to bounce back from the defeat and get a good result against the Blasters tomorrow.
Here are the excerpt of coach Ivan Vukomanovic.
In the press conference before the game against Bengaluru FC, Ivan said that the team might not have enough players for a football game. So was it a strategy to confuse the opponents?
“No, actually, we didn’t know until the last day. We didn’t know if the players would be available for the game because many started training after 15 days of isolation. They started training one day or two days before the game. We want to take care of the players’ health, even if it’s about not playing them in the game. We don’t want to take any risk because, for us, the most important thing is the health of our players.”
Ivan gave an update on Rahul KP’s injury and also if there are any other injury concerns in the team.
“No, Rahul KP still did not start training fully with the team. He’s still working with our physios. We hope to have him as soon as possible with the team because he’s the guy who can bring something extra to our team. Talking about the other injuries, there’s nothing concerning. We are very happy that we all went through the first game after the isolation without muscle injuries and any issues. So now we are all available, and we have to continue working hard because February will be a very difficult month as far as our season is concerned.”
Kerala Blasters were not much active in the January transfer window as far as signing players are concerned. Ivan spoke about the reason behind the team not signing any new players.
“No, we had in mind several options, but then when we got hit with the COVID situation, we didn’t want to act because it was not very easy to go and search and get someone. So it was not easy to convince those people to engage with us in that difficult situation. Now that we have restarted, we have one more month to go, and so far, we are happy with our team. We will continue with our group till the end of the season, and then we’ll see about some changes in the next transfer window.”
Even after KBFC has lost the match against Bengaluru FC, the fans have accepted the fact that the team has suffered a lot. They were in a situation which was not good to play football like before. So what do you think about the mentality of the fans accepting the fact that the team is going through a tough situation?
“I think since we started playing, the fans have been amazing and supporting us. Especially for us living in the bubble and feeling all that support from Kerala, it’s an amazing feeling for us. Every day when I see the players talking about it makes us proud. If you compare it to our previous season, this year, we have started to build up the kind of mentality that we will never abandon. Every game we play doesn’t matter if we are leading in the game or losing. We will fight till the end because we have an obligation for this jersey and this logo to fight till the last moment. That’s why that kind of feeling we had after the game against Bengaluru FC where we wanted to push without a certain way seeing the fact that we played that game after 15-18 days of Isolation. So we were happy because the players have that mindset of winners, and we want to keep that, and we also want the fans to know that.
“We will continue like that till the end whatever game it is, home or away game, whatever part of the season it might be, it doesn’t matter, we would like to compete and fight like that for everything. Kerala Blasters is like one huge family, so now every player must know that. Whenever a new player signs for Kerala blasters, he has to fight like that. This is our mindset because it’s how we can achieve something nice in football. This competition is hard and unpredictable, and things can change daily with the fixtures. So we have to be ready to compete, and we have to be ready to stay consistent because that’s the only way. If you want to stay on top, that’s why the fans were tremendous; they were great, and we cannot wait for the moment. Hopefully, the next season, there will be no bubble, and we can never play those games in front of our fans because I’m certain that that support would give one big reason that will help us win our games more easily.”
Ivan was asked if he was worried about the suspensions and the injuries in the team ahead of entering a crucial phase of the season where every game is very important.
“As a coach, I’m not worried because of that as getting yellow cards during the long season is quite normal. So if it happens tomorrow, we have younger players who can fit in because also these players need time and space to play. So they need to improve, and they need to feel those moments playing the games. We’re going to puzzle and modify to improvise. That’s how it goes in football, so this is the way we’re going to end up this season, and this is the way that we’re going to continue building up this season and also for the future as well. This is how you become stronger as a team.”
Kerala Blasters have seven matches in the next 30 days because of the revised schedule. Are you worried about it, especially because most of our players have just recovered from Covid?
“It will not be an issue only for us. It will be an issue for the whole league. Even last night, we saw some injuries, and now it’s bad in this period of the season. Speaking about muscle injuries, whoever gets it now, means that for him, the season is finished. Because the league is on a short term, the league is organised like that with many games, and then we were speaking about that at the beginning of the season as well when you have a league in this format where there is such a large gap between two seasons. From our side as well, like we just mentioned, we need to take care of the health and the medical status of our players because we want them to go through all those games. But probably at one point, we will rotate a couple of them and give some of them time and space to recover.
“We will continue like this in February because we want to end up in a good position on the later stage of the season. We will work on training sessions and everything because we want them to be ready as well for next year. After all, I want us to be consistent and work like that. I think that many teams will suffer now with this rescheduled program with all the fixtures all the games, but we as a team now in this situation nobody cares, and nobody asks us what’s, and we have to take care about because that’s the rhythm of ISL. That’s how somebody else decided, and we have to adapt to that. So we will try to do our best and take care of all these possible things. Then we will see with our measurements if at any moment we have to give someone rest for maybe one or two games.”
The upcoming games will be thick and fast, and there won’t be much time between the games, so how will Ivan prepare the team as the season is entering its crucial stage.
“We have lots of games left, and there won’t be much space between the games, but we need to modify and adapt accordingly. We won’t get much time to prepare, but I think we will rotate the players and give them more time for training. We cannot complain about the games because that’s how the ISL fixtures are, so we have to continue like this.”
Here are the excerpts of Adrian Luna.
you were a champion last season so what do you think of the momentum we have this season
“I think so far we are playing well. We have to keep playing like that even after 15 days of being in our room without training. I think that we have respect for all the teams in the league. It’s not easy to become the champion; we have to be very consistent throughout the course of the season. I feel we are on the right track. We have to keep playing like the way we are playing now. But also we cannot say to the player or put pressure on them about becoming the champion. We have to be play game by game, and I’m trying to win every game, and after that, we will see if we can be champion or not.”
Luna spoke about how he and the rest of the players are preparing mentally for the upcoming games despite the difficult situation in the bubble.
“We are professionals. But of course, after COVID, everyone is mentally exhausted. Now that it’s over and everyone is out of quarantine, we have to keep playing and enjoy the game. We are here because we love to play football and that’s what we are going to do in the upcoming games. We need to have fun after the difficult times and try to be a competitive team.”
Adrian Luna wishes to stay at the club for the upcoming season as well.
“I have a two-year contract with the club, and I intend to be here next season as well. I hope all our foreigners will return and play for Kerala Blasters in the upcoming season. We will keep fighting for this team and bring joy to our fans.“
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