ISL 2016: Can't wait to see the crowd support at home, says Kerala Blasters coach Steve Coppell
Kerala Blasters take on Atletico de Kolkata in their first home game of the season on Wednesday
After a heartbreaking loss at Guwahati, Kerala Blasters are all set to take on Atletico de Kolkata in front of their home crowd. The Yellow Brigade played their hearts out on Saturday but could not come away with any point from their season opener after Yusa's goal gave North East United the win.
Coach Steve Coppell was accompanied by the local boy, Mohammed Rafi in the press conference ahead of their first home game of the season. Both the player and the coach made it very clear from the start that they had put their loss behind and the whole team was fully focused on their upcoming match.
Rafi, knowing the tough competition that Atletico de Kolkata are set to provide tomorrow, said that the team has been putting in extra efforts in the practice in the past couple of days. "We lost our first match at Guwahati and the team is just getting set. It's our first home game and it's Atletico de Kolkata so we know we have to put in more effort.
“We are working very hard in the practice for the last couple of days. The team is just gelling and it's bound to take 2-3 matches before we are on the same wavelength" said Rafi.
The central midfield was an issue for the Yellow Brigade during their first match of the season and coach Coppell acknowledged the same. “It looked as if we had a problem the other night against North East (United). We did just keep giving the ball away a lot and that's not something that happened in the pre-season.
“It was maybe first-time nerves or maybe just playing away from home. I can't really understand but we have to do better in front of our own supporters on Wednesday evening. We have to keep the ball better and it's very important to have possession in his heat." said the coach.
Michael Chopra is someone Kerala Blasters looked like they missed on the pitch on Saturday and when asked if he was planning to bring him in, Coppell dropped the hint by saying that he has to use the full squad to cope up with the demands of the league.
Speaking to the media, Steve said "There will be changes, yes. The league schedule demands so. 14 games in 9 weeks with all this travelling, you have to use the full squad and that is what I will endeavour to do over the 9 weeks."
Both teams have not had the opportunity to practice on the new pitch at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and Steve Coppell looked at the positive side of it rather than complain about the same. He pointed out at the fact there are several players on both the sides who have not been to the stadium before and he hopes that the Kerala crowd, that is full of voice all the time, backs their team and helps them get the result they want.
Blasters did not have a proper left-back playing in the first game of the season and they eventually cost them the match. Coach Coppell was quizzed on how he was planning to cope with it and he revealed that he has got Josu back and he will be playing down the left side of the defence tomorrow.
“We got Josu available now and can play left back. In this tournament, for a foreign coach coming in, you are more or less presented with a squad of players and you have to make the best out of it. I’d be the first to admit that the balance in our squad is not ideal. But we can make do and we will make do. We will be progressive with our selections.”
The Blasters have 2 Haiti internationals in their squad and with the international matches coming up, it was a doubt if the duo would be available for the Yellow Brigade's matches. Steve Coppell confirmed that the duo was training with the squad and would remain with them as they don't have to be released because it's an international friendly and not a World Cup qualifiers.
“Belfort and Nazon have trained with us today and they are available. It’s not WC qualifiers, so we don’t have to release them", reaffirmed the coach.
Antonio German was clearly doing well in the first match of the season and was struggling to deal with the heat. Coppell revealed that it's was more to do with his injury than the heat that played a part in the striker's performance. "German had been injured and started training late. Give the heat, he could not play the whole 90 minutes. He will get stronger and get more ‘football fit’ as he plays more.”
Atletico de Kolkata have been one of the best sides in the short ISL history and Steve did not hold back from praising them. “Kolkata are a good team - especially their duo of Postiga and Hume. They are good players and have good wingers. Postiga was injured for the first game last season but still they did well.
“And now with him back in the squad, they will be more determined this year. It will be a difficult game but we are looking forward. It'll be a challenge and that is what we all look forward to"
He pointed out that the manager's being able to work with the same set of players for more than a season is the main secret behind their success. "They’ve had continuity of coaching and recruitment - just like Chennaiyin and Goa." said the coach.
Coppell also confirmed that he was not going to change the starting formation but might opt for 3 at the back if the match requires him to put more men forward.