Kerala Blasters look to end winless run, Jamshedpur eye top spot
Kochi: Kerala Blasters will be after that elusive second win of the Indian Super League (ISL) season when they take on Jamshedpur FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Friday.
The Blasters, after their opening matchday win over ATK, are winless for six games now. With three draws and as many losses in these six matches, the Blasters find themselves at the wrong end of the table in the eighth position.
However, they won't have it easy against fourth-placed Jamshedpur FC, who can go to the top of the table with a win in Kochi.
However, the form graph is interesting. Kerala Blasters played out two consecutive draws (against FC Goa and Mumbai City) coming into this match and so have Jamshedpur FC (against NorthEast United and Chennaiyin FC). Kerala coach Eelco Scahttorie and Jamshedpur manager Antonio Iriondo will want their sides to register a much-needed win on Friday.
Kerala have themselves to blame for the mess they find themselves in. The team looked on course for victory against both FC Goa and Mumbai City, only to concede late and settle for a point. Loss of concentration in the latter part of the matches has let the team down. Add to the mix the fact that Jamshedpur FC have scored 4 of their 9 goals in the final 15 minutes of their games, Schattorie's side have to be concerned. They have also shown a vulnerability while dealing with set-pieces.
"That (conceding late goals) has to do with the quality that you have in the team. One of the first things in team meetings at my previous clubs, one thing I keep repeating is that there has to be a mindset to have double alertness," said the Dutchman.
"Last week we had some mismatch during set-pieces. You have to find a solution, in this case, I tell my players to be a bit smarter, a bit meaner, to be street-smart," added Schattorie.
Though Raphael Messi Bouli has shone in attack of late, the absence of Bartholomew Ogbeche will weaken their frontline which has not exactly been on fire. The Men in Yellow have scored just six goals which is the second-lowest in the league.
But the return of influential midfielder Mario Arques will be a relief for Schattorie, though it is unsure if he will be fit enough to start.
Jamshedpur FC, on the other hand, have shown fighting spirit and tactical flexibility in plenty so far. They love having the ball but are equally deadly on the counter, thanks to the pace they have on the wings. The likes of Farukh Chowdhury, CK Vineeth and Aniket Jadhav have all impressed down the wings.
Also, Iriondo has a knack of getting his substitutions to work. This season, substitutes have helped Jamshedpur FC win crucial points when losing or have given them the lead when things were at a stalemate on numerous occasions.
However, the absence of star striker Sergio Castel and midfielder Piti is bound to affect the team's gameplan and come as a relief of sorts to Kerala.
"I don't know how Kerala's winless run is going to affect the team but Kerala are a good team. They have not been lucky in the first part of the season due to factors like injuries. They try to play football, they have a good style. In this kind of short leagues, you don't have too much time," said Iriondo.
"Maybe Sergio and Piti were important for the team. Maybe if they were in the team, it would be different. We are missing them a bit now," he admitted.
Overall, Kerala Blasters have never beaten Jamshedpur in four encounters between the two so far and they have won only two out of their last 10 home games.