The Englishman believes the vociferous home fans can drive his team to victory against Goa…

Kerala Blasters FC will be looking to get back to winning ways in the 2016 Hero Indian Super League when they host FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Tuesday. Kerala saw their five-match unbeaten run snapped by Delhi Dynamos FC last time around and will be desperate to avoid defeat against the Gaurs at home. The Blasters currently lie seventh in the table with nine points from eight games and head into the contest knowing a win for Goa will see them move off the bottom of the table, sending Kerala in the opposite direction.

Speaking to the media at the pre-match press conference in Kochi, head coach Steve Coppell admitted that he was relieved to be back playing at home once again after a long spell on the road. “Having been away for 21 days, again I stress that we’re the only team that has to play four away games on the bounce. I don’t think that is right, we travel so much and the training facilities provided to us were very poor, I think that was a major disadvantage running into four games like that. We’ve now come through those four games, we lost just once but because it was the last game, every game has its significance. Hence when you lose, it’s the end of the world and when you win you think ‘Oh I’m going to be jumping’. We’re very happy to be back in Kerala, we enjoy our home ground, we enjoy our home stadium and we enjoy our home crowd. We are delighted to be back here. I hope being back gives a boost for tomorrow night,” said Coppell.

Coppell’s men are the lowest scorers this season with just four goals in eight matches. Commenting on if he thought his side’s must focus on finding the back of the net as opposed to just keeping clean sheets, he said: “We can never forget about clean sheets, people I think assume that we spend hours and hours on practicing defending, but we don’t. You look at this league, and correct me if I’m wrong but the team at the top (Mumbai City FC) has only scored nine goals. For whatever reason this year there aren’t many goals scored. There are teams that do attack a lot and that’s because they have the players to attack. So many teams are playing three at the back, so many teams are playing five in midfield, It’s a tight league,”

He added: “Hence I can’t see the logic of let’s forget defence and just go forward. Football is all about, when you defend 11 people defend, when you attack 11 people attack. I don’t restrain anybody in going forward, we play to our potential but when we play against well organised teams, it can be very hard. We are looking for a few players to explode, I think upfront we’re looking for 1-2 players to explode towards the end of the season.”

The Blasters are also set to miss out on the services of their marquee player, Aaron Hughes, who has reported for national duty with Northern Ireland. Coppell explained that while Hughes may not have featured for them the full 90 minutes due to a thigh strain, his absence will be felt by the side. “Well this is a situation that we thought would never happen. Given his age and having just finished the Euros, we thought he was done with his international days. But Northern Ireland have had injury problems and they called him into the squad. He has a hamstring strain which means that he could have played for us and I would have liked if he had started tomorrow, but even we don’t think he would last the whole 90 minutes,” he said.

“But, being an international he has to be assessed by the national medical team hence he’s travelled to Ireland for that. He’s our marquee player and to not have him is a loss, but as one door closes it opens for somebody else. So, someone else is going to come into the team and it’s an opportunity that has to be made use of by that player for him to start in that role.”

When asked for his thoughts on Goa, the 61-year-old added: “Obviously a very successful team in the ISL. With six games to go any team who manages to win three out of them could make it to the semi-finals. This is the same for any team right now. That’s a great incentive for any team knowing that there are only six.

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