KOCHI: Kerala Blasters FC will have a chance to reclaim third place in the Indian Super League (ISL) if they beat their next opponents, NorthEast United FC, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. The Blasters are currently in fourth place and a point behind FC Goa with two games in hand.
Kerala Blasters have dropped all six points in their last two ISL matches. However, their recent form at home has been stellar with four consecutive wins. So far this season, the Blasters have won five out of seven home games at home.
In last week's loss against FC Goa, Dimitrios Diamantakos scored his seventh goal of the season. The Greek striker is the top scorer for Kerala Blasters FC this season and has also pocketed four assists in the process. His first goal of the season came in the reverse fixture earlier this season which the Blasters won 3-0.
After bagging a brace against the Highlanders in their reverse fixture, Sahal Samad has only scored and assisted once. Head coach Ivan Vukomanovic will expect more from the winger as Rahul KP will also be available after serving his suspension.
"It is another game. Every game for us is crucial. There are always teams who want to play their best game against Kerala Blasters, especially when we play in Kochi," said Vukomanovic as quoted by an ISL press release.
"Sometimes you enjoy a series of positive results and then enter a bad phase where it is important to react. Nobody can do that for us. It is up to us. We have to be brave and clever to have the correct approach for the remaining six games," he added.
NorthEast United FC is sitting at the bottom of the ISL table with four points this season. The Highlanders have lost all but two of their games this season. Both the games in which the Highlanders have picked up points have come at home.
NorthEast United FC has not won an ISL away game in their last 18 attempts. Their last away win came in February 2021 against East Bengal FC. The Highlanders will be eager to end this run, but it will be an uphill task without their top scorer Wilmar Gil.
The Colombian striker was sent off during last week's 4-0 defeat against Mumbai City FC. Head coach Vincenzo Annese will be without his top scorer, but will have new signing Joseba Beitia at his disposal. "The mood is always positive for a new game because we have enough time to rest and prepare for it. We know the way that they play.
We will change something for sure because whenever we play a big team like Kerala, it is hard," said Annese. "It will be hard to play without him [Gil] because he is our captain. Beitia knows Indian football and the I-League very well. We hope he can perform well in the ISL as well," he added.
In the 17 ISL encounters between the two sides, the Blasters have won seven, while the Highlanders have won four. Six games have ended in draws.
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