Kerala Blasters will be making the final for the first time six year.

Hyderabad FC will host Ivan Vukomanovic and his Kerala Blasters in the final of the eighth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). Hyderabad will play in an ISL final for the first time, whereas it will be the third appearance of the Blasters.

The Serbian head coach of the Blasters met the media to discuss the showpiece.

Update on Sahal Abdul Samad

Sahal Abdul Samad scored the only goal in Kerala’s first-leg win in the playoffs. However, the 24-year-old wide midfielder missed the second leg owing to a hamstring injury. Vukomanovic didn’t want to risk his stalwart and started Nishu Kumar in the second leg.

“Sahal was practicing today with the medical staff. So, probably he will be available,” the 44-year-old confirmed.

Kerala Blasters coach Ivan Vukomanovic pre-match press conference

Insistence on playing high pressing game

Kerala Blasters are known for playing a high pressing, highly intense game. Ivan Vukomanovic didn’t drop down the intensity even when he had almost nobody on his bench due to a COVID-19 outbreak in their camp. The Serbian believes like everything in life football should evolve as well. And today’s football focuses a lot more on pressing patterns and transitions.

“Well, I think that’s an important aspect of modern life. When you look at all the aspects of modern life, the important thing is evolution. Every day new things are coming out. Football is the same. Football is part of that evolution. Every year when you look at modern football at the highest level, there are certain things improving year-by-year. That’s why we see the top players improving every year with certain tendencies. And me as a coach, I will like to follow those things and implement those things,” the head coach stated.

Adrian Luna missing presser

Every year, the teams qualified for the finals have their captains accompany the head coaches in the press conference. However, Adrian Luna didn’t show up for it. So, the media asked Ivan Vukomanovic about his captain’s absence.

“Luna was also with the medical team. We still don’t know who will be the captain tomorrow. Today we have a training session to evaluate those things and hopefully, everything will be alright.”

Thoughts on Bartholomew Ogbeche

Hyderabad FC’s Bartholomew Ogbeche has broken all the records there were to break this season in terms of scoring goals. He has overtaken Ferran Corominas and Sunil Chhetri to become the all-time leading goalscorer in the league’s history.

When asked about Ogbeche’s feat, the Kerala tactician said, “We must say that he’s one of the greatest players ever to play in the ISL. Even after our last game against Hyderbad, we were checking and talking to him. I even remember playing against him back in France. When you’re capable of maintaining your body on a professional level, you can last longer.”

Strategy for the final

Ivan Vukomanovic has always been vocal about how all the young players dream about playing in the finals like tomorrow’s game. He believes the motivation of playing in it is what makes it the easiest game to win. He also thinks that he knows the opponents, having played them twice already this season.

“Tomorrow’s game, I must tell you honestly, it’s the easiest game to play. Because you are motivated and concentrated. Tomorrow’s opponent, we know each other. As a player, you dream about these games. You dream about playing in front of big crowds in the finals. It’s a pleasure and tomorrow I hope my boys enjoy the game and do their best,” Ivan Vukomanovic quipped.

Playing in-front of fans

Fans will return to the stadium for the first time in nearly three years. Vukomanovic believes that playing in a packed stadium provides extra motivation to the players.

“I feel that playing in the last couple of months without the fans is weird. Playing in empty stadiums is not a good feeling. Now that we are going to play in front of the fans, it’s an extra motivation,” said Vukomanovic. “You dream about playing in front of the crowd. You dream about playing for your country, your people and your loved ones.”

Grateful to be a part of Kerala Blasters

Kerala Blasters’ legacy lies in the rich football culture its home state possesses. Manjappadas are arguably the most vocal and the largest fanbase in the country. The Serbian head coach believes to have an opportunity of being a part of such a huge culture is an achievement in itself.

“When we had our first contact with the management, we did our research. And my first feeling was that I want to be part of them. If there’s an organisation with such a fanbase, you want to be with them. I’m grateful that they have chosen me,” the 44-year-old tactician explained.

Privileged to be working in football

When you do something you like and you get paid for it, life is easier and you’re happier. Vukomanovic sees him as someone who’s privileged to have been working in football all his life.

“Football is a joy and pleasure. I think being in the football business is a privilege. I remember waking up as a player, thanking every day for the opportunity of playing football. There are so many people around who are doing whatever they do to provide for their family. We playing football is a privilege,” Vukomanovic commented.

Improving youngsters

Vukomanovic also spoke about the youngsters in the Kerala Blasters’ camp and how his vision and philosophy resonated with the youngsters in the team and helped in bringing out the best out of them.

“We try to create the hunger that these players must have. Age doesn’t matter in football. If you’re good and have the quality, you’ll play. We show them everybody will get the minutes, especially the youngsters. I’m really happy that I have this group of youngsters who have the hunger to succeed. I’m also happy that they understand they have to when hard for the opportunity.”

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