The Dutchman also revealed that he was unable to get many information regarding the Kolkata outfit.

Ahead of ISL 2019-20 season opener between Kerala Blasters and ATK at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, hosts’ head coach Eelco Schattorie addressed the press on Saturday. While the Dutchman is delighted with the quality of the players in his side, he also admitted that his side have some catching up to do in terms of preparation.

Speaking to the media ahead of Sunday’s clash, the Dutchman conceded that their cancelled UAE tour and injuries have led the team to lag.

“I think we have a great team. We brought some good foreigners, we have some good Indian players. The pre-season was not as I wanted it to be. It was nothing to do with shortcomings from the club. The club did really everything to make a good team, make a good pre-season but unfortunately our pre-season camp was cancelled and therefore we didn’t have the perfect preparation. That is one part,” Schattorie quipped.

“The second part is, we had some foreign players arriving with injuries. Basically, I would say we are two, maybe three, weeks behind. We need to catch up. One of the things is, for instance, Sandesh is away, even the two foreign centre-backs they are not at full strength but that is part of the game.”

On Raju Gaikwad Replacing Sandesh Jhingan

Kerala Blasters announced the signing of former FC Goa, Mumbai City FC and Jamshedpur FC defender Raju Gaikwad as the replacement for injured Sandesh Jhingan. Eelco Schattorie, who revealed that he wanted to sign the 29-year-old earlier, feels the centre-back will need some more time to pick up the pace.

“I wanted Raju before. We need another Indian centre-back with experience. He also needs to catch up. His fitness is not up to par that means he didn’t have a pre-season.”

On Season Opener

The former NorthEast United manager believes the opening game of any tournament at the highest level is unpredictable but feels it is part of the game.

“The most imporatnt thing in football, either you take [FIFA] World Cup level or the highest level, opening games are always difficult. You never know what you are going to expect. It’s full pressure, we have some players, maybe, never played under a huge crowd like this so it is going to be huge expectations, that’s part of the game, that’s fine with me,” Schattorie opined.

On ATK And Their Qualities

Ahead of the first game of the season, Schattorie admitted that it is difficult to get information about their opponents. However, the 47-year-old heaped praise on ATK, especially lauding the side’s Indian attackers, who he feels can contribute valuable goals.

“I think ATK has a very strong squad, especially upfront and in midfield. I think they have even Indian players who can score goals and in the end, football is about scoring goals. They have a lot of scoring ability in the team but as I said it’s an opening game. It’s very difficult to get information on the other team in pre-season,” the tactician said.

“So I have question marks regarding ATK. In the same time, on paper, the information I get about their recruitment, etc, for sure they have a good time and I think they are one of the best teams in the league. So, we have to be ready. I did my homework as good as I could. Also, today we have last training with some last points to get that are important and then we should be ready,” the Dutchman added.

On AFC Champions League Qualifiers

The ISL was named as India’s top-tier league recently and now the table-toppers, come the end of the league phase, will play AFC Champions League Qualifiers.

Speaking on the decision, Schattorie conceded that he prefers the team with most points to be crowned champion but made it clear that he is not against ISL’s current format.

“I’m a big fan of that in the end who won the most games, as in the most points, he is the champion. I think that’s top spot. At the same time you’re looking at a format in a country where you need to get excitement from the people, so it’s not like I’m against the format because it also brings enthusiasm but in the end as a sportsman, or in this case as coach, I always feel the team that has the most points should be the champion,” Eelco Schattorie concluded.

Kerala Blasters will face ATK in the opening game of the Indian Super League on Sunday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium from 7:30 PM IST.