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Ivan Vukomanovic: We want to play these last two games with strength and power

Published at :February 18, 2023 at 1:47 AM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Tarkesh Jha

Kerala Blasters are keen on finishing the group stages strongly.

Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic hailed the quality in the ATK Mohun Bagan setup as he reflected upon his team’s qualification to the playoffs in a pre-match press conference on Friday. Chennaiyin FC defeated FC Goa 2-1 on Thursday and that paved the way for the previous year’s runners-up to make it to the top six this time around as well.

The tactician stressed upon the importance of finishing the season on a strong note and also touched upon the home advantage helping them to perform significantly better in Kochi than whilst on road. Here are the excerpts from Vukomanovic’s media interaction.

On ATK Mohun Bagan

ATK Mohun Bagan are currently experiencing a slump in form and are involved in a three-way shootout for the remaining two playoff spots. Ivan Vukomanovic said, “I believe ATK Mohun Bagan are one of the best teams in the league with so many national team players and quality foreigners.

So, I think from the goalkeeper to the last man in the team, ATK Mohun Bagan is a top team, they deserve to be where they are on the table and they can harm you from any position,” the 45-year-old said.

He added, “They have quality in every department, have always been and ATK Mohun Bagan have been a great team in every season so we must be aware in every position.”

Qualifying for the playoffs

Kerala have really turned a new chapter under Ivan Vukomanovic’s tutelage. After some under-par campaigns, they managed to make it to the finals last year. Even this year, they came back from a rather indifferent start to gather and sustain momentum midway through the season. Vukomanovic recalled that the Blasters had made it to the playoffs towards the fag end in ISL 2021-22 as well.

“It feels good, even last year we qualified for the playoffs in the last game or the game before that so we're used to the pressure. We knew that this season as well no one would offer us anything, we'll have to fight for it,” he said.

Ivan Vukomanovic further remarked, “Of course, the circumstances yesterday helped us to qualify for the playoffs but we still have two more games where we want to be strong and show that we are capable of being in the playoffs. We play an away game against ATK Mohun Bagan and then especially, the last home game in front of our fans because they deserve to see us being strong.”

The unpredictability of the league

Ivan Vukomanovic is well aware of the unpredictability that awaits the team once they make it to the knockout stages. He acknowledged that the crowd support helps the Blasters on their home turf but mentioned that it is anybody’s game once the sides enter the business end of the campaign.

The Serbian said, “Later on, it doesn't matter if you play at home or away. So, later on we'll have to give our hundred percent whether it's a home game or an away game because it's about one game, about 90-95 minutes.”

“We want to play these last two games with strength and power. If we see statistically, we've collected more points at home games than away games, maybe because we have that home advantage thanks to our fans, that's for sure but you never know,” he added.

Ayush Adhikari on tackling ATK Mohun Bagan in Kolkata

Ayush Adhikari, 22, expressed complete confidence in his team’s capability to lock horns with ATK Mohun Bagan in Kolkata. “It's always a challenge to play in Kolkata, in front of the fans but we've played here before and were able to handle it before as well, so we'll do our best to get the best outcome of the match,” the midfielder quipped.