The Englishman is keen for his team to build on recent good results…

Kerala Blaster visit Marina Arena later tonight as they look to overcome their Chennaiyin FC hoodoo, with their first ever Indian Super League win in Tamil Nadu. The crunch clash billed as the south Indian derby will be the first time their new manager Steve Coppell will eye back-to-back away victories having thrashed this season’s punching bags FC Goa on the road.

Speaking to the press ahead of the game, the former Manchester United legend stressed upon the importance of claiming three points in this league. He hinted that they could even top the league table at the end of the first set of fixtures, with his side sitting just four points behind league leaders Mumbai City and with a game in hand.

“Any win in this division is very important because it’s so close,” stated Coppell. “The end of October almost marks the halfway point in the league There’s not a great deal of points between the bottom team and the top team. Any win is precious. Coming from behind, we had a good victory. Psychologically, it was quite important for us.”
With Blasters’ opponents seeing the same coach in Marco Materazzi lead them for the third consecutive season, the ISL’s Yellow Wall has seen four managers come through the revolving door. The former Manchester City manager stated that he had to device strategies with the players, who were handed to him whilst in almost every footballing league, managers enjoy the luxury of signing players that suit their philosophy the most.

“Basically, I do what I do. I couldn’t really tell you what my philosophy or ideology is,” said Coppell. “Looking at the squad of players, you have to remember that generally, in the ISL, the squad is more or less given to you. I looked at the squad of players, and we’ve been working very hard to arrive at a style of play, which suits the players we have available and is most effective.

“We had a slow start result-wise, but all of our games have been very close. We could have easily won all the games and could also have lost all the games. The margins of success and failure in this league (are) very small, and it is suggested by the league itself.”

The Blasters boast a stupendous defensive record, with Sandesh Jhingan and Aaron Hughes keeping the opposition attack at bay. However, they have been unlucky not to include Rino Anto and CK Vineeth, with the duo still away with their Bengaluru FC duties. He mourned their absence but sounded supportive of their AFC Cup journey.

“Definitely, it’s all about the quality of the players we have available,” claimed Coppell. “Mumbai have lost quite a few players; we’ve lost two players, whom I think would probably be playing in the team. To lose two key players is a big loss for us, and I wish them very success on November 5, when they play the [AFC Cup] final. I hope they come back safe and sound. Their returns could well be a significant difference in the final three or four games of the season, and I’m certainly forward to welcoming them, because I’ve seen them on the TV; I know they are excellent players.”

Chennaiyin are the most consistent team, and it looks as though they will suffer hugely in the event of their Italian coach ever quitting their side in search of a better quality working experience in Europe or in more demanding Asian leagues such as J1 League or Chinese Super League. The Blasters manager acknowledged their dominance but promised to put on a good show in front of Super Machans.

“I’m really looking forward to the game,” said an excited Coppell. “If you look at Chennai, arguably, they have been the most successful team in the ISL. They topped the league stages in the first year. They won the competition last year. They have a strong squad of players. They have a successful formula. You need to play against the best teams to see where you sit. It will be a difficult task. In all the games they have played, you could see that they have a variety of playing styles – different ways of playing – that challenge you. I hope we can do well against them and hope it’s a good game for everyone watching.”

Chennaiyin and Blasters share the fiercest rivalry in the competition, with only the rivalry between Pune City and Mumbai City coming close. However, the Englishman denied buying into the hype as he believes that the history between the clubs hardly matters on match days.

“I’ve been made aware of the team’s history with Chennaiyin, but it means nothing to me,” opined Coppell. “As far as I’m concerned, this is just another game. I don’t think we have too many players, who have been caught up with it in the past. This is more or less a different squad and certainly a different occasion, so what’s at stake in this game is totally different from what has been at stake in the past. We play them again in a couple of weeks’ time in the league format. May the best team come out on top in both fixtures.”

The quality of refereeing has garnered colossal scrutiny in the recent times, but the Blasters coach did not seem to criticize the officials although he diplomatically stated that the ISL should try bringing in better officials.

“From my years of experience, I’ve learned that it’s something I don’t want to be involved in,” stated Coppell. “Refereeing is not something I can control. I personally found them to be okay. All any coach can ask for is a level of consistency. I have seen a level of inconsistency, but mistakes are bound to happen when you have referees coming from so many different environments.

Going forward, it would be better if they came from one country or one area as opposed to be spread from all over the place, but you trust the integrity of the referee. That’s all you can do. They make mistakes; we make mistakes, and the players make mistakes. As long as the mistakes are honest and genuine, it is fine. Going forward, it’s something the league can improve upon, but it’s doesn’t bother me much.”

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