The Kerala Blasters assistant coach admitted that the Marina Machans are doing well under their new coach.

Kerala Blasters are set to host sixth-placed Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League on Saturday. Yellow Army assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed, who will take charge of the club in the absence of the suspended Eelco Schattorie, addressed the media in a press conference ahead of the game.

The 36-year-old began by reiterating that Kerala Blasters are still in transition, but firmly believes the side have played a good brand of football despite not having the results they want.

“I think there is a process when you change completely – new coach, new philosophy – and infact the club has changed philosophy, from going to a different set of coaches to a new direction. The new coach believes in total football. We usually look at the results, unfortunately, the team has been playing some fantastic football,” Ishfaq Ahmed began.

On parity between Bengaluru, ATK and Goa and rest of the league

FC Goa, Bengaluru FC and ATK, who occupy the top three positions in the league table, have looked a step ahead of the rest throughout the season. While those three clubs have almost guaranteed spots in the playoffs, the other seven sides in the league have been left to fight for the last remaining place. Upon being asked about the difference in quality of the top three sides compared to the rest of the teams, including Kerala Blasters, Ishfaq Ahmed asserted his opinion and insisted that the three giants have played ‘ordinary’ football.

“Bengaluru and Goa are the only two teams who kept almost 80% of their squad and coaches. So, we know the system and everything. If you talk about the results, that favoured them. But, when you see the football, all the three teams have played pretty ordinary football,” the assistant coach explained.

On Rahul KP

While injuries have marred Kerala Blasters’ season, it won’t be wrong to say that the knock to exciting teenager Rahul KP hurt them the most. The 19 year-old has missed eight games through injury this season. However, Kerala Blasters head coach Eelco Schattorie revealed before the game against FC Goa last week that the winger is close to returning. Ishfaq Ahmed was thus asked to give an update on Rahul’s status.

“I think by tomorrow only we will take a call on whether Rahul is completely fit or not,” the former Kerala Blasters winger said.

On Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC, Blasters’ opponents on Saturday, had a poor start to the season under John Gregory. They had just one win in their first seven games, but have slowly turned things around after the arrival of Owen Coyle. The Marina Machans have now won four of their games under Coyle and stand a good chance of qualifying for the playoffs. Speaking on Chennaiyin, Ishfaq Ahmed stressed the significance of changing the coach and how fresh ideas motivate the players.

“This new coach has given the belief that they can do it and once you get a couple of wins you get that self-belief also. They have really good players and they are playing quite compact football. Sometimes, changing the coach is all you need. I don’t think the earlier coach was a bad coach. It is sometimes that fresh ideas motivate the players. Players are the same, but some of them are doing pretty good under this coach and yes they have a good chance, so do we,” he concluded.

Samuel Lamuanpuia on game time

“I didn’t have chances that much but when I get the chance I’ll prove I’m worth it. That’s what I’m still waiting for,” said Samuel Lamuanpuia.

Team News

The hosts will miss foreign stars Vlatko Drobarov and Moustapha Gning due to suspension on Saturday, with the duo having picked up their fourth yellow card against FC Goa last week. However, Abdul Hakku has served his ban and is set to return. Rahul KP could also make his return from injury.

Head-to-Head

Kerala Blasters and Chennaiyin FC have met 13 times in the ISL. Blasters have won three, while Chennaiyin have won five games. Rest of the five games ended in draws.

Predicted Lineup

Rehenesh, Rakip, Gaikwad, Hakku, Jessel, Jeakson, Cidoncha, Narzary, Seityasen, Messi Bouli, Ogbeche.

Broadcast

The match will be telecast live on the Star Sports Network from 7:30 PM IST on Saturday. It can also be streamed live on Hotstar and Jio TV.