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ISL 4: Kerala face NorthEast United in a must-win encounter

Iain Hume (Image: Facebook)

Guwahati: Saturday’s clash will be a battle between a student and his teacher, but one that the ward will certainly hope to win, for it is the only way his side can still remain in the contention for the play-offs.

Kerala Blasters’ David James will be up against his former coach Avram Grant of NorthEast United when the two face-off at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium.

Interestingly, Grant had managed Portsmouth in 2009-10 season of which James was the captain. The two combined well taking the club to FA Cup final, where they narrowly lost out to Chelsea.

“Their coach was my player,” said the Israeli recalling those days. “Eight years ago we made it to the final of the (FA) Cup. We had an unbelievable achievement. He was the captain.”

But it isn’t the same anymore and Grant managed side NorthEast are already out of the tournament finals. Their last win came against Chennaiyin — which was one of the only three wins they have had this season — and that has kept them on ninth, with 11 points from 15 matches.

Results have not been ‘like we expected’ but former Chelsea manager Grant was adamant in giving the home fans something to cheer about.

“The team will not give up and show good mentality. It’s good for the future,” he added.

James unlike his coach however still has chance to take Kerala to one more semi-finals. He already has the distinction of leading the Blasters to their maiden final and would want to go a step ahead and win the trophy, one that had so far eluded the two-time finalist.

“We are still in it. We have to go into every game playing for a win. We are happy with our progress. In the last game, we created many chances: 18 shots and 25 crosses,” said assistant coach Hermann Hreioarsson

He was referring to Kerala’s last match against ATK, where the visitors went twice ahead but both the times allowed the defending champions to make a comeback eventually settling for a 2-2 draw.

Currently fifth in the standings, the ‘Yellow Army’ still has a chance but with 21 points in 15 games, they would still require one of the top four teams to drop points.

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