James not taking rock-bottom Pune lightly

Kerala Blasters FC will be on the road as they take on a struggling FC Pune City side at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune on Friday. The southerners are unbeaten in their four games, however, they’ve only managed one win and have been involved in three draws in a row. With opponents Pune languishing at the bottom of the table, Kerala head coach David James will be hoping to take advantage of their poor form.

Ahead of the clash against the Stallions, James made it clear that he wasn’t taking Pune lightly despite their position in the league standings. “I think if football was easy to predict then we probably wouldn’t need to play it. We don’t know what happens. Pune have got some talented players, and they got one of the best goalkeepers in the ISL, one of the best Indian goalkeepers definitely. But as I said, if it was easy to predict, we wouldn’t need to play,” he told reporters at the pre-match press confernece.

The Englishman also spoke about the importance of taking their chances when opportunities present themselves. “It’s not about them keeping a clean sheet or not, obviously if they keep a clean sheet we won’t win. But it’s about us not allowing them to score. If you look at their strike force, they have got a lot of potential there. We need to score and if they score, we need to score more than one. So, it’s important for us that we look to score goals and convert more goals, and the clean sheet for us will be good,” James opined.

Before wrapping up, James shed some light on how much the Hero ISL has grown since its inception in 2014. “Well, I think the levels at both ends have got much, much better. About 4-5 years ago, the old marquee player was an old player who had played a lot of football. The likes of Slavisla (Stojanovic) and Matej (Poplatnik) who are bought in are a lot younger. Even the Pune side have many younger players who have a lot of years to play. So, there’s a better level of foreign players,” James said.

He added: “The younger Indian players and the old ones now. They have got better experience with a better group of players. The 2014 ISL compared to now, it was a bit worse I think, it was a bit worse. Today we are training at Pune’s training facility, back in 2014 we trained at a school there. So, there were weird things in 2014, but now the facilities are high-quality and the grass is much better. The players might not know what happened four years ago, but on a week-to-week basis, the levels are just picking up.”

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