Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic expressed that the team needs to show fighting spirit and character as the other teams look to spoil their moments, especially in Kochi as the Yellow Army take on Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai in the latest fixture of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23.

The Yellow Army would look to continue their five-match winning streak and the team can jusp to the third spot if they manage to take all three points from Thomas Brdaric’s side as the season is coming to a halfway point.

Vukomanvic added how a strong performance in the first half of the season from the team has helped them secure more points at the halfway point than some previous seasons in totality. The coach believes the whole squad is in a good mood ahead of their trip to Chennai.

Speaking at the pre-match conference, Vukomanovic talked about the changes in the squad keeping the particular demands of the matches, how the team needs to shut down games better and the importance of home support and more.

Here are the excerpts from Vukomanovic's press conference:

You dropped Puitea and Harmanjot Khabra in the last match, any particular reason?

Vukomanovic: In a certain period of the season, when you're looking for results, and when we had three consecutive defeats, you try to shuffle things. It was a coaching decision and we started with the victory in Guwahati, and then later on now we are on a consecutive winning streak. But it doesn't mean that now we think less for someone. We have a good squad, we have good players and I'm glad as a coach that everybody can jump in at any moment, play for the team, and do things because everybody knows their jobs.

As you said this is the most important phase of the season. Do you wish that the team finish off the games better?

Vukomanovic: We would like actually to have these kinds of situations that you can live those last moments of the game at ease. There is a big judgment of character and mentality and then when you do all those things, there are things that you have to deal with, as you say at the end of the game, actually fighting for the points, fighting spirit, character, you know, not allowing your opponents to score the goal

This is crucial because we were analysing the games in the last two seasons in the bubble, we were seeing many teams were dropping points in the second part on December and the first part of January which is a crucial part of the season. So, if as a team you are focused and concentrated in that period collecting points, you have a big chance later to participate in playoffs, especially this year with the top six, it can be the case. In December we are in a moment where we have 18 points, last year I think also in this period of the competition, we had similar amount of points.

How do you compare Chennayin FC with Bengaluru FC knowing that you played the rivalry against them?

Vukomanovic: My only experience with them was from last season. So, I think that both teams, had facelifting changes and they look different than last season. I think that both of the teams are very good. They have players that can make difference individually, and collectively. So, now from a coaching point, you prepare your games like every other game, there is a process, there are things in the microcycle that you're doing during the week. The rivalry makes it more spicy. So the fans, the players, they like playing those games because as a player, you dream about playing those big games in front of big crowds and this is something special. So for us, we know that it means a lot to everybody in Kerala, so we'll try to do our best and make a positive out of it.

How do you rate Abdenasser El Khayati as you face in the next game?

Vukomanovic: He's a good player coming from the European side having that experience from a European league. One of the most important leagues in Europe, the Dutch league and actually him bringing something extra in this league is nice seeing him playing like that and contributing extra things to his team. It's always nice to see good players in Hero ISL but it's not only about him, it's about the whole team how you want to use their weak points, and how you want to block their strong sides. So, of course, he's the guy who can make an individual difference. So as a team again, we have to prepare our things, we have to be concentrated and things we want to achieve and that's how it goes.

The team has registered a five-game winning streak and the opponents would be on the lookout to break it. Do you have some plans to counter that?

Vukomanovic:  From a coaching point you can never occupy your mind with records or thinking like that, and keeping emotions aside, you always think about your games and how to prepare those games and how to get ready for the next opponent. So, you know Kerala Blasters FC was always something special in Indian football and everybody has something special to play and win against Kerala Blasters FC. Everybody wants to do their best against Kerala Blasters FC. We accept it. We accept it because it's something special. So from our side, of course, we prepare for our games trying to beat our opponents and that's all.

Here are the excerpts from Leskovic's press conference:

You picked the right moment and right match to score your first goal for KBFC, How is your feeling after your first goal for the club?

Leskovic: The feeling is good, it's always good. It feels good because it was in front of our fans. It's more important because we were trailing by a goal when I scored, so I'm glad to score and help the team to make a comeback and then go on to win the match.

How is it going with the coach for you?

Leskovic: It's a pleasure to have a coach like Ivan (Vukomanovic). Not only as a coach but as a person as well. Whatever you need, whatever you want, you can speak to him like a normal person. It's a big pleasure for me. We have good communication and we work well together and I hope we will continue like this.