The Englishman expects Delhi to attack in the first leg…

Kerala Blasters FC head coach Steve Coppell doesn’t think Delhi Dynamos FC would adopt a defensive strategy in their first leg of the second semi-final of Hero Indian Super League 2016 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. Delhi have been the most prolific team this season in terms of goals having hit the back of the net on 27 occasions. Be that as it may, they have also conceded the maximum number of goals (17) among all four semi-finalists.

Speaking to the media ahead of the game, Coppell provided an assessment of their rivals for tomorrow’s game. “They are very potent going forward and they throw a number of people going forward and that might leave them a bit vulnerable at the back…I think it will be difficult for Delhi to change their mentality and I think they will throw their men forward and will try to score goals against us and I don’t think that they will be conservative,” he said.

“They are what they are and we are what we are and we certainly acknowledge that they have got some terrific players and I like to think that we have also got some terrific players…We have to play our game and not play according to their players and it is a double-edged sword as we have got to be adventurous but we also have to be disciplined and we have to get our patterns right.”

When asked if Kerala will approach this game in a different manner, different from any other game from the league stage, Coppell replied in the negative. “I don’t think you can approach it differently before the game and once the game gets going you might take different decisions. Certainly, before the game you look at it as one game in isolation and we would like to win and we want to win. We try and prepare to win and as the game progresses you might become more aware of the facts that it’s part of two games and depending upon what happens in this game might affect circumstances but certainly before the game we will go in thinking it is a one-off game and we would like to do our best to win it,” Coppell said.

Kerala have won their last five games at home this season but Coppell advised his players not to lay too much importance on that fact. “It is not going to help us tomorrow and what will help us is the strong mentality of the players going into this game and realising it is one game in isolation, which we have to try to win and our approach has to be to win the game,” the Englishman said.

Of all semi-finalists, Kerala have scored the least number of goals (13) but Coppell said winning was more important than scoring many goals. “Look at the results, 22 points and six wins, and it is better than any other Kerala team [in the past] and that’s what football is all about and it’s not how you do it. It’s just the fact that you do it. At the start of the season when we started off in Trivandrum, our initial goal was to reach the semis and we are in the semis now and the four teams now left will fight it out to be the best team in the ISL and so how we did it does not really make a great difference and we won more games at home than any other Kerala team and our brief, to a certain extent, to make our fans at home happy has been achieved and I hope we can make them happy tomorrow night and they can go home with a big smile,” the 61-year-old said.

Kerala face a big threat in the form of Marcelinho, the highest scorer this season with nine goals. Coppell acknowledged the Brazilian’s quality but added the hosts didn’t have any special strategy for the 29-year-old. “He is a terrific player and he has had a great ISL season and we are very well aware of him but we are not changing our tactics specifically regarding him. But we obviously respect what he is capable of doing,” he said.

Kerala’s surge to the semis towards the second half of the league stage coincided with CK Vineeth returning from AFC participation and hitting the ground running. Coppell praised the midfielder who has scored five goals and provided one assist in his six games so far. “I think CK’s goals have made the difference towards the end of the season and I think CK will agree that it’s not only about one man in any team and it is about the supporters and all the players and he has been terrific and I want him to continue,” he said.

Report and Photo Courtesy: ISL Media