The Spaniard spoke ahead of his side’s clash against in-form SC East Bengal on Friday.

Two-time Indian Super League (ISL) finalists Kerala Blasters will kick-start their second round of the season’s league stage on Friday. The league’s newest entrants SC East Bengal are all set to be their first opponents in the round and the contest will be held at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, Goa. While Kibu Vicuna and his boys are coming fresh off a win against Jamshedpur FC, the Kolkata giants will look to capitalise on their own confidence having beaten Bengaluru FC in their most recent game.

Although East Bengal and the Yellow Army are only at the ninth and tenth places respectively on the ISL points table, the encounter between the two sides promises to be a feisty affair. Ahead of the game, Kibu Vicuna and new signing Juande Lopez addressed the media in the pre-match press conference held on Thursday.

WATCH: Kibu Vicuna speaks at the pre-match press conference

East Bengal’s improving form

The Red and Gold Brigade initially spent a few weeks at the bottom spot on the points table, before showing signs of a resurgence by registering wins against Odisha FC and Bengaluru. The addition of Bright Enobakhare to their squad looks like a brilliant move as the club have been reaping rewards on the pitch for the same.

“SC East Bengal is a very good side. We have been watching them in all the matches. We’ve been analysing on how to be more competitive tomorrow. Our objective is to get all the three points once again (after the Jamshedpur win),” Vicuna said when asked about his team’s opponents.

Poor defensive performance resulting in many goals

In 10 matches, Kerala Blasters prevented their opponents from scoring in just two games (Chennaiyin FC and Hyderabad FC). In the remaining nine matches, they conceded more goals (19 – nearly three goals per game) than any other team this season.

When asked about the defensive lapses, the tactician said, “We are trying to improve the balance and to not concede goals while creating chances offensively. The most important thing is to score more goals than you concede against your opponents. If you concede but later score more, the morale is high.”

Attacking strategies

In their most recent win, KBFC put three past Jamshedpur FC courtesy of a brace from Jordan Murray and a brilliant headed goal by Costa Nhamoinesu. They have scored 13 goals so far in the league, a tally which is three more than second-placed ATK Mohun Bagan. However, it seems that Kibu Vicuna still has not identified a consolidated lineup in attack, as he prefers to switch between a lone-striker and a two-striker system between matches.

However, the Spaniard did admit that both Gary Hooper and Jordan Murray clicked well together against JFC, in what is a matter of relief to both the team’s management and their fans. “It is true that Gary (Hooper) and Jordan (Murray) performed well together in the last match. But every game is different; we structure our team according to what we feel is the best formation possible against a particular opponent. More importantly, we have been creating a lot of chances irrespective of our attacking strategies. To continue achieving that balance, we have to work hard and train,” he explained.

Facundo Pereyra’s transfer rumours

Earlier, Kerala Blasters fans were rudely woken up by the shock news of ATK Mohun Bagan’s enquiry of star midfielder Facundo Pereyra as reported by mutiple handles. But the former Mohun Bagan coach seemed not to think much about it.

“We are working with Facundo Pereyra as usual. He is an important player for us. He has been performing very well for the club. There is nothing else that matters to us now,” he said.

Signing Juande Lopez

It goes without saying that the Yellow Army have issues to solve in other areas on the pitch as well, which is why everyone is keen to see how the team’s new signing Juande Lopez fits into the system.

Speaking about the club’s new signing, Kibu Vicuna said, “We are very happy that now Juande is with us because he is a very good player with a lot of experience. He gives us the opportunity to work around different possibilities. He can help us in different positions. He’s a fantastic defensive midfielder but can play in other positions as well, like as a central defender. We are happy that we have this possibility. So we will see during the match what we are going to do.”

Given how the likes of Vicente Gomez and Jeakson have formed a formidable partnership in the midfield, it would be interesting to see if the former Perth Glory star features as a centre-back in some of their upcoming games. The injury of Bakary Kone is another reason why Juande’s versatility could be tried out by the club.

Juande Lopez on his move

Meanwhile, the player himself was present along with the coach at the press conference, as mentioned earlier. “I saw a lot of games during quarantine. I think we only need to fix the small details and I only come here to help. So it’s not much pressure for me but football as I have played in my entire life. I have good confidence in this team,” he said, upon about his new club and his role with them.

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