Kibu Vicuna and his Kerala Blasters face a stern test in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday, as they lock horns with Jamshedpur FC in what is a must-win game. The Yellow Army have registered just one win so far from nine matches and suffered an embarrassing defeat against Odisha FC on Thursday.
The team are now second bottom on the league standings with just six points, while their opponents Jamshedpur are fifth. A win on Sunday will propel the Men of Steel into the top four, while the Blasters also need a victory if they want to rise from the penultimate spot to ninth place. Ahead of the game, coach Vicuna and midfielder/full-back Prasanth Karuthadathkuni represented the Kochi outfit in the pre-match press conference.
Kibu Vicuna began the interaction by admitting that it was tough to accept the defeat against Odisha FC.
“Well, yes – it was a difficult night for us (against Odisha). But, since then, we have been preparing for the upcoming game against Jamshedpur FC. We trained yesterday and we are about to start our training for today,” he said, before adding, “In football, we have to bounce back and show personality. We are working on it and we are a good team. Hopefully, we will have a good game tomorrow.”
Talks with management
Against Odisha, Kerala Blasters took an early lead before allowing four goals back in and rushing headlong into another loss. Following the game, doubts were raised on Vicuna’s future at the club.
However, on Saturday, the coach himself clarified that he has not had any such talks with the team’s management. “We are focusing only on the job at hand – which is the game tomorrow. Nothing else has been discussed,” he revealed.
Changing defensive strategy
One of the most disappointing aspects about the Blasters’ performances have been the silly mistakes they’ve commited in defence. More often than not, these errors have led to goals for their opponents and Vicuna was asked if attempting to change the defensive strategy and formation would be a good idea to prevent those mistakes.
“No, I think we have to train and correct the mistakes,” he replied. “We should also try not to commit them in the upcoming matches. We are working on it.
“You can change the team and also the formation in whichever way you like, but it does not mean that it will work successfully every time,” the 48-year-old further explained. This means that the tactician is likely to continue with his four-man backline.
In tenth place on the league table, the Yellow Army are nine points behind the top four teams. Qualifying for the playoffs looks highly unlikely, which is why it seems to many that it makes sense to try and focus on building a team for the longer term.
But, Kibu Vicuna did not agree. The former Mohun Bagan coach argued that it is not intelligent to have long-term goals. He also maintained that it is better to take things one game at a time. “Our aim is to play well in every game and produce satisfactory performances. That did not happen in the last game and now we have another opportunity on Sunday. Getting a good result there is our only target right now,” he commented.
On Jamshedpur FC
Speaking about the Blasters’ opponents, Vicuna said, “They are a team that has got very good results so far. They are aggressive, have good players and are one of the best teams in the league.”
He also reminded fans that the Kochi-based outfit, however, are ready to face them. “We are ready for them and will take them on with confidence. The team is focusing only on ourselves, to see what we can do from our end to ensure the three points tomorrow.”
Prasanth on his new right-back role
Unlike his current role in the team as a full-back, the fans are more familiar with the 23-year-old playing as a winger or as a midfielder. When asked about this change, Prasanth said that he likes his flexibility in the side.
“More than a preferred position, I enjoy being flexible enough to suit the plans of my coach. Coaches have different tactics and formations. They will surely have an idea of where they can play a particular player. This time, Kibu Vicuna has opted to play me more as a full-back. Anyway, wingers and full-backs play a similar role in our system right now,” he explained.
“Of course, everyone is disappointed. But, it also worth noting that we have 11 matches remaining,” the player reminded. He also said that the season is not over for the team yet.
“So, we have to focus on rectifying our errors and try not to make more of them in the upcoming games. That’s what we are working on in training. There is definitely some more time for us to try and improve because the season is not over for us yet.”
Dealing with pressure
Currently in the last year of his contract with KBFC, Prasanth maintains that he is trying his level best to contribute to the team’s growth.
“I am aware that this is the last year of my contract. It is also a difficult time for us, but this is part of the game. I’m trying to help my teammates and also the team as a whole,” he said. He then concluded the press meet by speaking on the competition among the players.
“The competition has always been there. I just want to improve, individually. To do that, I have to give my 100% in training and whenever I get chances to play. The remaining is up to the coach and the management,” he signed off.