Three points will be the top priority for Kerala Blasters FC head coach Eelco Schattorie when his team takes the field against FC Goa in the 29th match of the 2019-’20 Indian Super League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday.
The Dutch coach will hope to put an end to his team’s travails on the field. The Yellow Army are winless in four games and their only win this season came against ATK on the opening day. Schattorie has also lost several key players to injury, especially in defence.
Midfielder Mario Arques is yet to start a match for Kerala Blasters since arriving in the summer and has only recently returned to training following an injury layoff. Sandesh Jhingan and Jairo Rodriguez had to be replaced due to injuries and the latter’s replacement, Macedonian Vlatko Drobarov, remains an unknown quantity to the Kerala Blasters faithful.
Upfront, Bartholomew Ogbeche’s brace against ATK remains his only contribution to the scoreline, and having gone goalless for four games, the former NorthEast United striker will expect an improved supply from midfield to come up with more goals. Sergio Cidoncha is also another player who will be expected to step up and deliver if Kerala Blasters are to create more chances in the attacking third.
“Not much has changed regarding injuries. I saw the interview of Goa coach saying that we have a team that can play for the title. I don’t agree with him. At this stage, we’re still getting to the level that we’re trying to get to. We’re still in the survival mode,” said Schattorie.
Sergio Lobera’s FC Goa have not hit peak form yet and have just one clean sheet so far, and it came against Chennayin FC in their first game of the season. They have not been able to find the right balance due to a mix of injuries and suspensions and lack a heavy punch without Ferran Corominas leading the line.
The current form and previous meetings between these two teams will please Lobera. Goa have won seven of the ten meetings between the two teams and have scored a whopping 25 goals. Last season, Goa defeated Kerala Blasters 3-0 at home and 3-1 in Kochi and both were dominant victories.
Lobera praised the atmosphere at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and hopes that fan groups also recreate similar ambience in their home stadiums.
“It is amazing to play in Kerala. I think all professionals want to play every match in such a beautiful atmosphere. Players get motivated to play in this situation. I want to play every match in this kind of atmosphere,” he said.
While Goa’s defensive frailties and absence of suspended Ahmed Jahouh, Hugo Boumus and Seimenlen Doungel could allow Kerala Blasters to control the midfield better, the real challenge will be for the hosts’ depleted defence to stand firm against Goa’s red-hot attack that has scored 10 goals from five matches this season.