Kerala Blasters need a point to confirm their place in the knockouts.
Needing only a point to assure themselves a place in the Indian Super League playoffs for the first time since 2016, Kerala Blasters face nemesis FC Goa, a team they have only beaten thrice in 15 meetings, in their last league encounter. Ivan Vukomanovic’s men are currently at fourth and could have already secured a playoffs berth by the time they are in action against Derrick Pereira’s men tomorrow if Mumbai City fail to beat Hyderabad FC later today. The Islanders, who lost 3-1 against KBFC in their previous game, are at fifth with 31 points — two points far from the Blasters.
However, if the defending champions go past Hyderabad FC, who are likely to field a depleted playing XI after a COVID breakout, Kerala Blasters would need at least a point against Derrick Pereira’s men if not a win.
Ahead of the match, head coach Ivan Vukomanovic and Derrick Pereira addressed the media and shared their thoughts. Here are the excerpts:
FC Goa Coach Derrick Pereira
Thoughts on Kerala Blasters match
Derrick Pereira: We want to end on a good note. The focus is more on our game. We have been always focusing on our game. We want to perform well – to the best of our ability. That’s what we are going to do tomorrow as well.
Things Derrick Pereira could have done differently
Derrick Pereira: I have learnt some things which I could have done in a different way. I could have handled certain situations in a different way. But it’s a learning process for each and everyone of us. Being in a bubble is not easy. We had to make changes in the lineup at the last moment because of COVID.
There are a lot of things which we could have done in a better way like handling the team in training sessions when we were not allowed to go on the pitch and train. Not only on the field or with the team but dealing with situations when we didn’t have players and we had positive cases just one day prior to the match or on the day of the match. We could have asked the league to postpone the matches which would have helped us in the latter stages of the league.
Differences you have noticed in the team after taking charge
Derrick Pereira: There are a lot of things. Right now, our focus is on tomorrow’s match. Things like getting into the bubble – something that I have learnt, to live inside a bubble this season. The players’ mentality and attitude. There are a lot of things that I have understood after coming here. What I saw about the whole team – the players and officials are that they were mentally strong. There were some issues which had to be handled.
But whenever they went on to the pitch, they gave their best. Yes, we needed to be more precise in decision-making. Individual mistakes have put us down – not only from the players’ side but also from the officiating people who were managing the matches. So, we have come across a lot of things this season that have hampered our results. It was a good experience for me. I have learnt some things like how to handle teams in this situation.
Kerala Blasters Coach Ivan Vukomanovic
Approach to the final league stage match against FC Goa
Ivan Vukomanovic: If we compare the first part of the season where we faced FC Goa to now, we are currently in a completely different momentum, both teams in fact. We have to fight for our points and the approach will be quite the same, to go with a full squad, to try and achieve those points.
We will not think of tomorrow’s game as a game where we need only one point. No! We want to go for all the three points. As a coach, and as a former player, I don’t like to settle for less. When you have that mindset, you will not regret about anything.
How do you reckon your first season in the ISL has turned out?
Ivan Vukomanovic: I’m really happy, I’m happy to have chosen this adventure. Since we all started cooperating and working together, we are on the right path. And from our side and technical stuff, we can see many improvements in every possible aspect. But this is just the beginning, in one football process, it needs time.
Especially, if you speak about ISL in the short term, I see that many people here in India would like to see miracles happen overnight or over one month, in football that’s impossible. It’s quite impossible because if you want to be consistent, if you want to create and have big results and big achievements, of course, you need time to build up all those things. So later on, we’ll see about the consistency about continuing working together.
The more we stay together, the longer we stay together, the results will be better. In professional sports, when you have that kind of process and organisation, of course at the end, it gives you good results.
Any pressure given Kerala Blasters need only a draw from tomorrow’s game?
Ivan Vukomanovic: I always prefer to talk about things that we can control and then we can master ourselves. You know, if you speak about tonight’s game of our direct rivalry for the fourth spot, we cannot control those things. We have to be careful and organised for Sunday’s game. Every game we’ve played has been an important one.
For every point we achieved this season, we had to fight for it really hard and I think that on Sunday, it will be no different. So, we’ll have to fight for our points, will have to fight for our spot because nobody will give us anything, nobody will offer us anything. No preparation, no training routine will change, and there will be no difference for us, we only need to have a fully focused mindset when we go onto the pitch to achieve the points that we want.