Defender Sanjeev Stalin was also present to answer questions from the media.

Kerala Blasters will be looking to get back to winning ways after they faced a snag last time around in their bid for a play-off berth. It was Jamshedpur FC who humbled the Yellow Army in their 3-0 win. Currently, Ivan Vukomanovic and co sit at the sixth position but a win could catapult them back into the top four. They face their next challenge in the form of a struggling yet spirited SC East Bengal side. Tomorrow’s game will be the perfect opportunity for the Kerala side to collect three points as they are yet to face tough opponents like ATKMB and Hyderabad.

Head Coach Ivan Vukomanovic and youngster Sanjeev Stalin sat down for the pre-match press conference:

Impact of new backline

Kerala Blasters has seen quite some shuffling in their backline, with some names featuring more often than others. We have enough players in our squad. That’s why we have a large team. Some other players will take that position. They know the position and the task. I am not worried about that, instead I am confident about these boys. I believe that they can do the job because it has now been a while that we have been training and working together,” the coach said confidently.

“We will see what happens tomorrow. I am glad that some of them will get playing time, chance to prove themselves, chance to play these kinds of games because it is very useful for them to participate in these games,” Vukomanovic added on the topic of giving his players opportunities.

An update on the squad

KBFC’s Head Coach Ivan Vukomanovic gave an update on the players who will or will not be available for tomorrow’s clash. “Everybody is available. Except Hormi (Hormipam Ruivah), who was operated with the injury. Nishu was training yesterday. We are confident for tomorrow’s game.”

Today, he (Rahul KP) will participate in the training session. We will see what the reaction is. If everything is not alright, we have to be very careful with him because a stupid decision can put him out of the pitch again for a long-term. We don’t want to do that. For him, it has been a long time. His coming back must be well-organised and well-prepared,” the coach updated.

On Teammates 

The media also turned to the 21-year-old left-back and quizzed him on certain topics. “Everybody is like a leader. For me, Nishu Paaji (Nishu Kumar), Khabra Paaji (Harmanjot Singh Khabra) both are like leaders. Even my teammates like Jeakson, who are of the same age category, are also mentors for me. I have learnt many things from them, which is very useful for me, both on and off the pitch,” Stalin said about his teammates and their impact on his development.

Expectations from tomorrow’s match

On paper, Kerala Blasters is certainly labelled as the favourites. Sanjeev Stalin agrees as well. “Of course, we will win. We will take the game in a positive way. We are hoping for a good result, which will lead us into the top four and help us become the champions,” the confident defender announced.

Best Position

Young players tend to shift from one position to another, as long as they get the chance to prove themselves. It isn’t any different for Sanjeev. “Firstly, as a player, I would like to play 90 minutes. Of course, every player wants to play games. If the coach wants me to play, it is a good feeling actually whenever you get a chance to prove yourself. With your abilities, you are going to help the team. If you are winning, it is always a beautiful feeling no matter wherever you play, be it left-back, right wing, right-back, attacking midfielder. If the coach gives me a chance, I would love to give my 100% for the team,” the player said enthusiastically.

Pressure to perform

When a player as young as 21years old is given an opportunity to shine on the pitch, the pressure can be overbearing at times. Stalin, on the other hand, welcomes the challenge. “Pressure is something which you handle in every situation. It’s all about your mindset. If you are confident enough to play wherever you want to, it’s the coach’s decision even if he puts me as a left-back, right wing or attacking midfielder, my job is to give 100%,” the eager player concluded.

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