Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic wants a response from his team after the defeat in Kolkata as they prepare to face southern rivals Chennaiyin FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) match at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi on Tuesday. 

Despite just one win in the last four matches, Kerala Blasters FC are well-placed to reach the playoffs but the Serbian warns his team not to take their position on the table for granted. 

“We are in the third spot but there are no guarantees. We have to win to secure the playoff spot. We have to compete and I like that,” Vukomanovic said during the pre-match press conference on Monday. 

“Anything is possible in this league. Anyone can beat any team home or away. Every team enjoys a spell of good momentum and one spell of inconsistency. Bengaluru FC is the team that are in a good shape now with the quality they have and are winning games,” he added. 

Vukomanovic also hailed the rivalry his team shares with Chennaiyin FC and felt it’s a game every player would dream to be a part of. 

“These kinds of matches make you better. So, as a player, everyone wants to play in these games,” he said. 

“I hope we go there and play a nice match for our fans and get a good result. It doesn't matter what position the team is in and I feel everyone will be motivated. I hope our players will want to prove a point after our defeat in Kolkata,” he added. 

Kerala Blasters FC have been hit by a virus in the camp that has affected almost 15 players in the last month and the latest player to have been impacted by it is forward Apostolos Giannou who is a slight doubt for the game. 

Defender Marko Leskovic is set to rejoin training but his inclusion in the team remains unlikely given Vukomanovic’s willingness to not rush him and the fine form of Victor Mongil who has been operating in his place. 

“Victor is an experienced player and is well educated from his Spanish background. He is a player who is getting better the more he is playing,” Vukomanovic said. 

“I never doubted Victor even when he wasn't playing. He is a great guy and a good player and he is showing his quality. I'm happy with his performance. He is an experienced player and I can say nothing but the best about Mongil,” he added. 

Vukomanovic also hinted at rotating his squad to keep them fresh for the business end of the season as he hopes to guide his team into the playoffs. 

“We are in the final part of the season when every team has some injuries or suspensions. So, at this time you have to rotate and give other players playing time,” he said. “We also have the Super Cup, we will have games every three days, so there is no chance that you can play with the same team. A lot of players are at their limits and if you don't rotate you risk injuries,” he added. 

Bryce Miranda accompanied Vukomanovic to the pre-match press conference and has featured in the last two matches for Kerala Blasters FC. Speaking about his first season in yellow, Miranda expressed how it has been a learning curve for him. 

“It's my first season in the Hero ISL and also with Kerala Blasters FC. When I joined the club, for one and half months I was feeling under pressure. But as time passed, I improved with every training session,” Miranda said during the pre-match press conference. 

“I have a lot of respect for Sahal. I have to compete with one of the best players in India and it's a privilege to compete against him,” he added. 

The young midfielder also spoke about how he is coping with moving to the Hero ISL from the Hero I-League which according to him has been a massive step up for him. 

“The difference between Hero ISL and I-League is massive. Hero ISL is more competitive. The quality of foreigners in Hero ISL is way better,” he said. 

“I used to watch a lot of Kerala Blasters FC last year. When I came here the head coach was quite supportive. Now I hope in the coming games, I can contribute for the team as much as I can,” Miranda concluded.