The assistant coach insisted the players will take time to adapt to the system brought by Eelco Schattorie.

Kerala Blasters face NorthEast United in Guwahati on the 7th of February.  With the chances of qualifying for the playoffs virtually over, Kerala Blasters would like to finish their season on a high by winning the remaining three matches. Ahead of their match against fellow strugglers NorthEast United, assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed talked to the media in the pre-match press conference.

The former Indian footballer began by talking about what went wrong with Kerala Blasters this season. “When you change the philosophy and the complete team, new coaching staff, new players, it takes time to adapt to the new fresh idea which came with Eelco (Schattorie) to fit in with this new team. We have had more ball possession than whichever opponent we played but I think it takes time.”

Injuries

“We’ve been really unfortunate with the injuries that happened. One of our top Indian players who has played for Kerala for the last five seasons, Sandesh (Jhingan), we lost him for the complete season. Then the Brazilian Jairo Rodrigues, we lost him as well.”

“I have been enough in football to know this is one season where we were unlucky. We had many injuries and never were able to field the same team that started the previous match. I think that was unfortunate, it can happen with any team and this time it happened with us,” added Ishfaq Ahmed.

Defensive Lapses

The assistant coach also talked about their defensive failures in the last match against Chennaiyin FC. “I think it was not a complete defensive failure but more of individual errors which we all know what happened. If you see the match till the 38th minute you will see it was dominated by us. ”

“We had a clear chance and then Messi Bouli was pulled down inside the box. Sometimes you get those results and sometimes you don’t. But if you make those mistakes, you need to address them and we are working on that. Those individual mistakes are not repeated again.”

Absence Of Eelco Schattorie And Rumours About His Replacement

Speaking about the absence of head coach Schattorie on the sidelines, Ishfaq Ahmed talks how much of an impact it will have on the team’s performance. “It’s always difficult (without Eelco). He is the head coach, he is the head of the family. It’s always difficult but we are ready for this and it is part and parcel of football. Sometimes players are available, sometimes they are not. Sometimes coaches get suspended also. I think we are pretty much confident and I am sure the whole team will do a pretty good job.”

Further, the former Jamshedpur FC assistant coach stated that they won’t have any advantage despite facing Schattorie’s former side. “I don’t think we have a bigger advantage. Eelco is tactically very strong, he reads all the teams very well and we will go according to his plan. We have prepared and I am sure they will be prepared as well. I don’t think there’s an advantage. On that given day if we manage to play according to our plan everything will be okay.”

There have been rumours suggesting Blasters are looking of a replacement for head coach Eelco Schattorie. Speaking on that, Ishfaq Ahmed said, “I don’t know, there are so many rumours and you cannot be just believing on that. For now, Eelco is very much part of the team. Nobody knows what will happen in future.”

Targets For The Remaining Matches

Moreover, Ishfaq Ahmed insisted his team will give a hundred percent despite qualifications for the playoffs looks impossible. “We can’t keep changing the philosophy. We’ll keep going like professionals and every match is important.”

“If the chances for the qualification are not there that doesn’t mean we will change something that is impossible to change for three or four matches. We want to win all the three matches and end up as high as we can and I think that is a motivation for the next season also.”

New Format Of The ISL

Speaking about the format of the league, Ishfaq Ahmed revealed that talks are taking place regarding its longevity. “This is a concern for not just one team but the entire format of Indian football. Discussions are taking place and I think the issue is being addressed. I think in future we may see the number of matches in the league being increased, further making the season longer.”

Seityasen Singh On Injury And The Overall Season

Joining assistant coach Ishfaq was former NorthEast United player Seityasen Singh. He talked about his injury that kept him out for the whole of last season. “I was injured last year and was totally out of the season. After a surgery, I signed for Kerala Blasters and then coach Eelco came in.”

“Our team including all players and coaches are all good but the problem is as the coach said are injuries. Injuries have made our season very difficult and it has been a very unlucky season for us.”

Team News

Moustapha Gning and Vlatko Drobarov are back from suspension and will be in the squad to face NorthEast United. Apart from long-term absentees Jairo Rodrigues and Sandesh Jhingan, rest of the players are available for selection.

Head to Head

Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United have faced each other 11 times with United winning thrice and the Blasters winning five times. Three games ended up in draws.

Predicted Lineup

Rehenesh, Rakip, Zuiverloon, Vlatko, Jessel, Seityasen, Sahal, Cido, Narzary, Messi, Ogbeche

Broadcast

The match will be telecast live on the Star Sports Network from 7:30 PM IST. You may also opt for Hotstar and Jio TV to watch the live stream of the game.