The Serbian tactician shared his thoughts on SC East Bengal, Adrian Luna and the change in mentality.

Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Kerala Blasters will go up against SC East Bengal in the Super Sunday clash. Ivan Vukomanovic’s men come into this game on the back of their first win of ISL 2021-22 and will be looking to build on it. SC East Bengal, on the other hand, are yet to win a game this season and are experiencing a bad run of form.

Ahead of the clash, Kerala Blasters’ head coach Vukomanovic and player Puitea interacted with the media. Here are excerpts from theIR conversation:

Advantages of having a player like Adrian Luna

Adrian Luna has established himself as the engine of the Kerala Blasters midfield. The Uruguayan has been phenomenal in the opening fixtures so far. Ivan Vukomanovic shared his thoughts on having a player like Luna and said he’s glad to have him.

Watch: SC East Bengal vs Kerala Blasters | Ivan Vukomanovic & Puitea press conference

“It goes back to when we started to build this project. And looking for foreigners who can bring something extra to this team. Luna is one of the available options and we’re very glad to have him. Not just as a football player, but also as a man, he’s very humble and polite.” 

Change in mentality

If we look at the past, the Blasters were a completely different team to what they’re now under Ivan Vukomanovic. The Blasters gave away goals cheaply and lacked the ‘never say die’ attitude. But, this time they’ve fought back every time things go wrong on the pitch. When quizzed about what he did to bring in this change, Ivan said that in football, the winning mentality is very important and his players have it.

“In a coaching job, there are many things that you have to evaluate and improve. You know, in the football game, there is 90-95 minutes of hard work and you must never give up. So far, what we saw this season in ISL is that anything is possible,” said the KBFC boss.

“So, as a team, we want to believe that we can win every game and fight till the last minute. When you create this kind of energy and respect among the players or on the team, everybody wants to fight for each other. So, that’s football, you need this kind of winning mentality in one team.

“I firmly believe that these boys have it, they have it in themselves and they want to prove it. We feel all the positive things they have inside, so I’m very happy to see them reacting like that,” he further added.

Team walking in right direction

Kerala Blasters registered their first win of the season in their last game and it seems that Ivan Vukomanovic is getting his plans spot on. When asked if he thinks the same, the Serbian coach said, “If you speak also since the game against ATK (Mohun Bagan), we wanted to play good football and achieve certain things on the pitch. Of course, it’s a nice feeling when you win. But, as a team, we want to continue.

“I’m really pleased to see that in a lot of games, we were fighting for the points. So, this is how you achieve great things in football,” he explained.

Preparations against SC East Bengal

The Red and Gold have had high-scoring disappointing outings in the 2021-22 season so far. The tactician spoke about how he’s planning for this game and termed it to be the most difficult game until now.

“All the games there are different. We always want to start and be very focused and concentrated. There are different styles that we are practicing since we started, offensive and defensive.

“I think SC East Bengal are a good team. The place they have now on the table, maybe it’s not well deserved, but that’s football. We are playing against a very good team and I think for us it will be the most difficult game. We have to prepare to be strong for this game,” Ivan said.

Update on Albino Gomes

Albino Gomes was taken off in the game against Odisha FC after he hurt himself. Sharing an update on his injury, the  Serbian tactician said it will take time to examine the real issue in Albino’s knee.

“I remember during the game and I saw the videos afterward, that he kicked the ball out and he felt some issue in his knee, like some kind of pain. We didn’t want to take that risk, so immediately we reacted and took him off. Now, when you have that kind of reaction, you need a couple of days to evaluate and examine the status of the injury.

“We need a couple of more days. I think from Monday, he will go to undergo some more tests to see exactly what’s happening in his knee and after that, we will know precisely about his treatments and about the time of his recovery. 

“Even the doctors and our medical staff and the specialists, they said that we have to wait because this is a normal process that you have to go through, before you decide to start with the treatment,” he answered.

Update on Rahul KP

Rahul KP sustained an injury in Kerala Blasters’ opening game against ATK Mohun Bagan and has been sidelined for at least 3-4 weeks. Giving an update on the winger, Ivan Vukomanovic said, “Rahul has started with his recovery and he will not need surgery. We hope to see him soon with us in the training process and back in the rhythm.

“One of the things that have happened with Rahul was that he missed long part of our pre-season due to his national team obligations. So, of course, we are missing him because they are good boys. We always need more concurrence in our team because then the team becomes better. So, hopefully, we will have them both (Rahul KP and Albino Gomes) back in the rhythm soon.”

Puitea’s comments

Playing alongside Adrian Luna

Puitea has become a mainstay in the Kerala Blasters midfield this season. He shared his experience of playing alongside Adrian Luna and termed it to be an honour.

“It’s been an honour to play alongside Adrian Luna. Even with Alvaro Vazquez and Jorge Diaz also. He’s always calm with the ball and always finds a good solution,” he signed off.

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