Kerala Blasters need to win against Marina Machans to stay in the play-offs race.

Kerala Blasters have dropped down to fifth place on the points table owing to a string of poor results. The dropped points have seriously hindered Ivan Vukomanovic’s hopes of making the play-offs. With three games left, KBFC have to get the better of their opponents to advance in the competition.

Chennaiyin FC, long out of contention for a top-four berth, now will play for their pride. There have been improvements under new coach Sabir Pasha, but there’s still a long way to go. CFC can now only hope to play spoil-sport for their neighbour’s attempt at going back into the top four.

Head Coaches Ivan Vukomanovic and Sabir Pasha spoke to the media ahead of the game:

Only one point out of a possible six from your last two matches. Would you say you have been unlucky?

Ivan Vukomanovic: Well, you know that there are some, for example, in football, the beauty and ugly side of football is that nobody guarantees you that if you play nice that you will win the game, and there is no guarantee that the team will win. So that’s the ugly side of football.

So, in the two games, controlling the game, creating chances, we’ll talk about things. You know, today, we were talking about those things yesterday, you know, maybe a couple days, but later on what stays on paper, it’s the result, you know, and we didn’t get the points, we were creating those chances, because you work hard on a training session and game to create chances to be able to score goals.

So from the other side, if you speak about luck, I firmly believe that luck is an important factor in a football game. Also, I believe for the luck you deserve, you have to work hard. And when you get those chances, maybe you will get the luck to score. So it wasn’t working in our favour in the last two games. So we cannot complain.

You have struggled to start games well. Is that a concern?

Ivan Vukomanovic: No, no, because now we are in the part of the season where everyone suffers a bit. And like I just mentioned, with the schedule, especially after the New Year (in 2022), with the amount of games, and not enough days for quality training sessions. And adding to that the Covid-19 outbreak, where you as a team lose many important things in your training process, then you have to manage.

Many teams were going and playing with a fresh mind in the earlier stages and now towards the end, we see many teams suffering with injuries with fitness and everything. So it’s normal to see certain things. That’s why we are also now trying to give playing time to all the players to be able to have fresh legs on the field. And so, we are trying to manage things like that.

With every match a must-win game now? How prepared are you?

Ivan Vukomanovic: So, it was not easy, especially with the Covid-19 outbreak in our camp with a 15-day isolation. And with the ISL format, the rescheduling of games, actually, you don’t have time to train, you don’t have time to train with quality, you don’t have time to have those overload sessions with the whole group. You can only train with one small group at one point. With all these things, you have to puzzle on an individual basis, many aspects and then prepare the group.

So, if we speak about from when this year (2022) began, it was kind of an improvisation because the schedule and the calendar doesn’t allow you to have that long-term vision. So you have to do game by game, use the players who are fresh, get them ready on a fitness level and that’s it.

Chennaiyin FC coach Sabir Pasha

How have the Indian players improved from last season?

Sabir Pasha: It is all about motivating the players, because it is the end of the season, everybody is in a different mood because we are out of the title race, all these things are there. But, the only thing is that they should know that they are professionals. There is not a single match which is simple or a match just like that.

Every match is a competition. They have to push themselves and that is the point we are trying to put out. It is a difficult situation here, with the bubble and all these things. We have been motivating them and we expect more from the players in the upcoming two matches.

With your season over, have the team started their preparations for next season?

Sabir Pasha: Yes, naturally. That’s what the boys have to play for, play for their future, their contracts. These two matches are to prove themselves to show where they lie and are they good enough to play for Chennaiyin FC again or not. We hope that these guys look forward to that and give their best in the upcoming matches.

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