Kochi: Kerala Blasters FC will be desperate for a win as they host NorthEast United in their Hero Indian Super League encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Saturday.
The Blasters are on an eight-game winless streak with their last win coming against ATK in the season opener. The team had, similarly, gone on a 14-match winless drought after their season opener in the previous campaign as well, which cost them dearly.
Kerala, with just seven points from nine games, are at a stage where they cannot afford to drop any more points. Eelco Schattorie’s team have been poor at home as well, despite enjoying strong fan support. Since last season, Kerala have only 14 points from 14 home matches and the last three of them have finished in draws.
They are coming off a demoralizing 3-1 defeat to rivals Chennaiyin and Schattorie will be eager for a win over his former side. Thankfully, captain Bartholomew Ogbeche, who was NorthEast United’s top scorer last season before following Schattorie to Kerala, is expected to feature on Saturday.
Though he has struggled to replicate his freescoring form from last season, Ogbeche is still a potent force in attack.
Kerala’s defence has not been performing any better. A lack of stability has resulted in them keeping just one cleansheet so far and that too came against a misfiring Odisha side. Midfield also has looked pedestrian at times and the injury to Sergio Cidoncha has not helped matters.
Sahal Abdul Samad, a creative outlet in midfield, has surprisingly been restricted to substitute appearances. Mario Arques will have to shoulder the responsibility of keeping the midfield ticking against NorthEast.
“I can’t deny that if you play against your old club, there will be certain dynamics. But I am only focusing on our team at the moment. We have to focus on bouncing back from the last game. Hopefully, (NorthEast’s form) is an advantage for us, we are playing at home. I saw a few games of theirs where they got results with a bit of luck,” said Schattorie.
NorthEast United have also floundered after making a good start to the campaign. A winless run of four games has left them sixth on the table with 10 points. Their attack has suffered in the absence of star striker Asamoah Gyan who had been injured for a while.
They have just scored the least amount of goals in the league so far (8) and with a solitary goal from the last three games. The return to fitness of Federico Gallego should help them create more chances in front of goal, should he feature in the game.
Robert Jarni’s side also have their share of problems at the back. Individual errors have cost them dearly, especially because of the fact that they do not score enough goals. They have conceded eight goals in the last four matches in comparison to just three in their first four games.
The likes of Mislav Komorski and Nim Dorjee Tamang need to improve drastically while more consistency will be expected from young players like Redeem Tlang and Lalthathanga Khawlhring.
“There are three teams whose style is very good, but with that style, they are not able to get results. But once the season is over, no one remembers the style, it’s all about the points,” said Jarni as he emphasized on the importance to get results over style of play.
NorthEast United will be eager to pull one over their former coach Eelco Schattorie and pile more misery on him. At the opposing camp, the Dutchman will be contemplating strategies to revive their season with a win over his former team.