Both teams have had an erratic first half of the campaign but will look to cap off the year on a high.

Kerala Blasters FC host Bengaluru FC in another battle of the southerners in Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. The Blasters have picked up four points from their previous two fixtures and are slowly showing the form that they displayed last season. Speaking to the media during the pre-match press conference was Kerala’s head coach Rene Meulensteen, who began by highlighting the importance of the fixture.

“We have to treat it as one of the games with a little sort of edge to it because it has a derby feel to it which is always good,” he stated. “It makes the games special. And all the fans are up for it, looking and listening and seeing to the responses going around. That will be good for us. We are looking forward to it.”

He had some mixed news to share regarding injuries, however. “Dimitar Berbatov has got a good week of training behind him,” he revealed. “We have to still assess him further today and tomorrow. But we’re hopeful. Pritam (Singh) has dislocated his shoulder. Karan Sawhney is recovering from a hamstring but it’s touch and go. Other than that, we are good.”

When asked if the last-gasp equaliser against Chennaiyin FC raised the team’s spirits, Meulensteen replied, “Oh, a 100%. We would have been very disappointed had we come from there empty handed. That point could prove vital in the end. The players could have dropped their heads, but they raised themselves. They showed great character and positivity.”

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Meanwhile, Bengaluru FC assistant coach Naushad Moosa addressed the media in the absence of head coach Albert Roca, who was keeping unwell. He explained the reason as to why the Blues were finding the going tough all of a sudden, given they succumbed to consecutive defeats following a flying start to their debut Hero ISL campaign.

“We started training quite early in July,” he said. “Most of the teams started late. The initial matches were good for us. We had more training, we had AFC Cup matches, and more practice sessions than the other ISL clubs. So, slowly if you see, the other teams are settling down. They are gelling well. That’s making it difficult.”

However, Bengaluru have won their last two away fixtures, and Moosa seemed confident regarding a tricky trip to Kochi. “If you see the results, we have won the last two away games,” he pointed out. “We are playing positive football, and we will be playing positive football tomorrow. It’s not that we will go defensive. We have come here for points, and hopefully we will get them.”