Kochi: One of the strongest teams on paper with a host of stars in their line-up, last season’s finalists Kerala Blasters are yet to win a single match in the fourth edition of the Indian Super League. Breaking the side’s goal-drought, Mark Sifneos had given Kerala the lead twice in as many matches, but could not get a win succumbing to a draw against Mumbai while a Ferran Corominas’ seven minute blitz blew them apart in Goa.
Coach Rene Meulensteen is however optimistic of his boys soon turning the ship to winning ways. “Winning is the only medicine” he believes, that can relieve the pressure and bring some confidence back in the team.
“It is normal sometimes when you are desperate to win, there is a little bit of doubt. I keep reassuring the players that there are plenty of games to play for. When you are winning the confidence comes in. People talk about teamwork and team spirit. Believe me, there is only one medicine – winning,” said the former assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester Untied.
While lack of wins have already put the two-time finalists under enormous pressure, the injury of marquee signing Dimitar Berbatov has added to it. “It’s a loss for sure. Everybody noticed that when he came off against Goa. The way that the game panned put after he left was disappointing. We have to use the squad as always. This is a case of accepting the fact that he is not there,” said Meulensteen ahead of the match.
He will nonetheless take heart from the fact that Iain Hume and Wes Brown return and so does local boy CK Vineeth, who missed the Goa fixture for the Red card he received against Mumbai.
The presence of Assistant coach Thangboi Singto, who in the past have been a coach of Shillong Lajong and a host of North-Eastern players in the Kerala set-up also would give then an additional boost facing a side that is yet to win a single match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
“It’s special for those set of players from the Northeast. That’s an extra dimension (for this game), sure for both sets of players. Thangboi is a very good help for us and can give insight into certain players and certain elements of their game. Hopefully, we can take advantage of that,” said the Kerala gaffer.
Head coach of NorthEast United De Deus however remained unperturbed by such claims and when questioned that if Thanboi at all could make the difference in such a big encounter he said, “He can know all my players but does he know my ideas of the game, does he? My players will play with the ideas that the coach has. That is not anything of relevance.”
Both the team lost the previous match, ‘The Highlanders’ are however a notch above the Blasters with a point more and will hope to taste the savour of victory playing under one of the most intriguing atmosphere in the competition.