The Serbian tactician and winger Prasanth spoke to the media ahead of the game against Bengaluru FC.

The 2021 edition of the Durand Cup will feature a blockbuster clash on Wednesday, when Kerala Blasters take on Bengaluru FC. Both the Indian Super League (ISL) outfits have considered the competition as part of their pre-season preparations. However, they have taken different approaches in doing so. While Ivan Vukomanovic has named all his best players available for the Durand Cup, the Blues are fielding a squad full of youngsters.

Speaking ahead of the game in the pre-match press conference, Vukomanovic highlighted the ‘pre-season’ aspect of KBFC’s Durand Cup campaign. “First of all, we are happy with the first victory (against Indian Army). But, tomorrow’s game against Bengaluru FC – we see it as part of our pre-season process. We would like to divide game-time among our players. We’re not thinking about results at the moment. Rather, we’re mainly focusing on our players and our preparations for the ISL,” he began.

On importance of avoiding injuries

“We’re also in a period where we have to take care of our players and avoid injuries,” the 44-year-old said, when asked if injuries and fitness woes are a concern for the Yellow Army.

“You should also know that it has been raining continuously for a day. It’s unsure if the games will happen or not. We don’t think we can go out to train today as everything’s under water,” he revealed. About three hours later, the Indian Air Force – CRPF game was abandoned due to the same reasons, confirming the Serbian’s thoughts. He also suggested that it’s not safe to train or play in the available conditions, especially for the Blasters who have a bigger goal to look forward to.

“We’re sorry about Abdul Hakku’s injury. For players, games like these mean minutes, but unfortunately he will have to sit out for the remaining games. Regarding Sahal (Abdul Samad), he started training only yesterday – so it’ll be tough to feature him tomorrow.”

About foreign signings

Kerala Blasters’ Press conference | Ivan Vukomanovic & Prasanth Karuthadathkuni | Durand Cup 2021

Ivan Vukomanovic confirmed that Kerala Blasters will complete the signing of their sixth foreign player by the end of this week. He also said that the visa processes for Alvaro Vazquez and Jorge Diaz will be done by then. “We’re working on it so that they (Vazquez and Diaz) can arrive by the end of next week. The sixth foreigner will also be announced soon – probably by the end of this week,” he said.

On Bengaluru FC

“We don’t look at our next opponent and compare them with us on the basis of last season’s performances. It’s obvious that neither Bengaluru FC nor we will look in next ISL like we are looking now,” the ex-Standard Liege tactician replied when asked about his thoughts on tomorrow’s opponents.

He further added: “We both will use this tournament as a part of our preparations. We will try to give playing time to all our players.”

On fitness of players ahead of ISL 2021-22

Ivan Vukomanovic also spoke on the fitness of players and why pre-season is the period when they have to pay attention to the same. “Well, actually, it affects a lot. We created a pre-season programme lasting as many as five weeks in Kochi. Within two weeks, we could see players recovering more quickly after training. That’s also why we started early ahead of ISL. Now, here at Durand Cup, we’re facing different situations where we have to adapt accordingly. As a result, we’ve had to put our original pre-season programme aside and come up with a modified plan,” he explained.

“Speaking of planning certain things, we should also take individual players to account and prepare accordingly. Adding that to the current facilities available, it has been hard. But, it’s our job and we’re doing it.”

Rating new signings

The Serbian was also asked about the performances of Kerala Blasters’ new signings, especially the foreigners. “We have only three new signings with us at the moment – Enes Sipovic, Adrian Luna and Chencho (Gyeltshen). Sipovic played in India last season and also arrived early at our pre-season camp. Luna, although he is playing in India for the first time, also came early while we were still at Kochi,” Vukomanovic said.

He further added, “Chencho arrived late and he had the longest off-season gap among the players, so we’re currently working to help him regain his form, fitness and shape.”

Prasanth’s comments

Prasanth Karuthadathkuni – the 24-year-old who recently earned the distinction of being the only KBFC player who has represented the club in all major tournaments – also spoke in the pre-match press conference.

“If the criticism had affected me, I wouldn’t have been playing still, maybe,” he said, when asked if the relatively harsh comments that he has been subjected to over the past couple of seasons have had a negative impact. “My performances may not have been satisfactory, but I’m not very disappointed either,” he further added.

“I’m happy with the work done in pre-season and to be working under coach Ivan. I am also thankful for the opportunities I’ve received at Kerala Blasters over the past few years – I’ve been at the club for five years now and I hope to do well this season,” the winger commented. Ivan Vukomanovic also spoke on Prasanth, as he said, “He can play better and both of us know that well. There is scope of improvement at any age. He has the potential and I hope he’ll keep working hard.”

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