ATK Mohun Bagan one of the best teams in Hero ISL: Kerala Blasters FC's Ivan Vukomanovic
Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic wants to make sure his team is aware of the quality the Mariners possesses as the Yellow Army take on ATK Mohun Bagan in the latest fixture of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) in Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday.
The Yellow Army would be looking to secure the third spot finish with Simon Grayson's men hot on their tails in fourth position in the Hero ISL points table. Meanwhile, ATK Mohun Bagan would be looking to cement their playoffs with an opportunity to jump to third position with a victory.
Both teams are coming into the fixture after defeats in their respective last games. Vukomanovic shed light on how the team is feeling better after qualifying for the playoffs and how tough the away fixtures against the Mariners could be.
"It feels good, even last year we qualified for the playoffs in the last game or the game before that so we're used to the pressure. We knew that this season as well no one would offer us anything, we'll have to fight for it. Of course, the circumstances yesterday (Chennaiyin FC's win over FC Goa) helped us to qualify for the playoffs but we still have two more games where we want to be strong and show that we are capable of being in the playoffs. We play an away game against ATK Mohun Bagan and then especially, the last home game in front of our fans because they deserve to see us being strong," Vukomanovic said in the official pre-match press conference.
In the reverse fixture in October, ATK Mohun Bagan bagged a 5-2 victory in the Yellow Army's backyard. Vukomanovic explained how it will be a different match with an accumulation of fatigue and the dynamic is different now.
Gearing up for our away trip with hard work and determination 💪🏻#ATKMBKBFC #ഒന്നായിപോരാടാം #KBFC #KeralaBlasters pic.twitter.com/4BOGXjeEQw— Kerala Blasters FC (@KeralaBlasters) February 17, 2023
"Both teams will be the same, maybe there won't be the same lineups because both teams are missing some players. It's a different dynamic now, it's the end of the season now and back then it was the beginning of the season. There's an accumulation of fatigue and different things so we might witness a different kind of game but again, both teams want to win, fighting for every duel and every ball. So I expect nothing but that," Vukomanovic stated.
"I believe ATK Mohun Bagan is one of the best teams in the league with so many national team players and quality foreigners. So, I think from the goalkeeper to the last man in the team, ATK Mohun Bagan is a top team, they deserve to be where they are on the table and they can harm you from any position. They have quality in every department, have always been and ATK Mohun Bagan have been a great team in every season so we must be aware in every position," Vukomanovic added.
The Yellow Army have collected seven out of their 10 victories adding to their great home record. Vukomanovic's side finish the league campaign with a home game against Hyderabad FC and he explained, in the playoffs, the home advantage won't be the same and thanked the fans for their support.
"When you start to play the playoffs, it's a completely different competition and we've seen in yesterday's game (Chennaiyin FC win over FC Goa) and throughout the competition that anybody can beat any team and that this league is unpredictable. Later on, it doesn't matter if you play at home or away. So, later on we'll have to give our hundred per cent whether it's a home game or an away game because it's about one game, about 90-95 minutes. We want to play these last two games with strength and power. If we see statistically, we've collected more points at home games than away games, maybe because we have that home advantage thanks to our fans, that's for sure but you never know," he concluded.
Ayush Adhikari accompanied Vukomanovic in the official pre-match press conference. The Delhi-born lad has made 22 appearances in three seasons with the Yellow Army. Adhikari expressed that the team would be able to handle the pressure of the away game and would try to get the best outcome from the match.
"It's always a challenge to play in Kolkata, in front of the fans but we've played here before and were able to handle it before as well, so we'll do our best to get the best outcome of the match," Adhikari said in the pre-match press conference.
The 22-year-old made his debut for the Yellow Army in the 2020-21 season and has been a regular in Kerala Blasters FC's setup. Adhikari shared about his experience in the club and how he has improved under Vukomanovic and enjoys being part of the journey.
"It's been two years since I made my debut for Kerala Blasters FC and things have changed, I've improved a lot under the coach and I've learnt how to play the majority. Also to play and learn from players like (Adrian) Luna and Lesko (Marko Leskovic) so it's a great feeling and I enjoy being a part of it," Adhikari concluded.