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Guimaraes targeting playoffs place, James has faith in 'very talented side'


The Islanders will look to get back into the top four with a win as the Blasters try to continue their own upward curve under the new manager.

Mumbai City FC host Kerala Blasters FC at the Mumbai Football Arena in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday. The Islanders are unbeaten in their last three fixtures and have scored eight goals in those matches while picking up seven points. A win would give them top-four status, but it will not be easy against the Blasters, who have regained their scoring touch.

Ahead of the match, Alexandre Guimaraes, head coach of Mumbai addressed the media and made his team’s immediate agenda clear. “Our first goal is accomplished in terms of finishing the first half of the league very close to the top,” the Costa Rican explained. “That has put us in a good situation to continue to compete the way we’re competing in this league."

In the second half, game after game we want to get closer to the top four, which is our final objective. So tomorrow we have our first game against Kerala which is a very important game after they’ve come alive. We can’t give them the chance to get close to us.”

The 58-year-old also spoke about what he expects of Kerala. “When a new coach comes, it shakes everyone,” Guimaraes said. “It shakes the players as they don’t know what the new coach will do. They also have a new foreign player. This is of course, a team who comes here energized. It is not easy to win away, they did that, so they come here with a lot of confidence.”

Guimaraes went on to expand on his plans for the second half of the season. “I think now we will have a period after we finish our game; a period of long term practice,” he revealed. “I’m very optimistic about this period of practice... I feel that period will help us very much to insert more information into the players in terms of practice. We have to get to the final month in very good shape.”

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Last year’s finalists Kerala Blasters have regained much of their attacking prowess under the management of former player David James, and it was evident in their previous match when they outclassed Delhi Dynamos FC 3 – 1. They now face an organised Mumbai City squad, and prior to the encounter, head coach James addressed the media.

To begin with, the Englishman summarised his team’s performance so far. “I said before the game and even after the game that we are a very talented side,” he said. “(We) don’t necessarily deserve to be where we are because we have good quality. We were very disciplined, showed no fear. After the draw (1 – 1 against FC Pune City), this (3 – 1 victory over Delhi) was a good win. It’s the same again for tomorrow really.”

The former Liverpool goalkeeper shared his thoughts on the ground in Mumbai. “It’s a lot better than when I was playing in year one,” he inferred. “It’s a nice venue. It’s an indication of where the ISL is going. It looks good on telly, it looks good from outside. A full house, I’m sure we’ll be ready for that. We look forward to it.”

The 47-year-old went on to acknowledge the fact that his side were up against a very good Mumbai outfit. “They are a talented side,” James said. “Fortunately, I’ve got a good coaching staff at hand. They’ve scored some goals, have some good players and for us even after the win, we need to improve. Another away game, another fierce performance from Kerala Basters!”

While he admitted that the schedule ahead was rather hectic, James has faith in his squad to cope with games in quick succession. “I think for the next three games, the opposition will have extra time to prepare,” he said. “Obviously, there are advantages as we’ve had knocks and not a lot of time to recover. We have to make assessments. But we’ve got a big squad, we have opportunities to rotate. So, can’t complain.”

James also provided an update on local star CK Vineeth’s injury. “He (Vineeth) was in training,” the former England goalkeeper revealed. “He puts himself in a position to be selected. He looked sharper, but the team hasn’t been announced yet.”

When commenting on his love for Kerala, James added: “I watch all the matches because I’m a Kerala Blasters fan. I had to watch the games especially when I became head coach to see how the players were playing rather than just the result. I’ve seen them play. As we have four games in succession, it’s very difficult to cope but we’ve got quality. We’ve got to try to jump above them (Mumbai in the table). I’ve seen a lot of positives.”


Published: Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:51 AM IST


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