Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic wants his team to regain their winning momentum, stick together as a unit and keep a positive mindset as they battle NorthEast United FC in matchweek 5 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, in Guwahati, on Saturday.

Winless in their last three games, Vukomanovic believes his side is going through a rough patch and wants his players to put that behind by fully committing to the game and working hard to win it. The Serbian also urged his players to get back to their last year’s mentality and he feels that they are capable of collecting points on the board.

The Blasters’ head coach addressed the media alongside forward Rahul KP in the official pre-match press conference ahead of the NorthEast United FC match.

Here are the excerpts from his press conference:   

What has happened to Kerala Blasters FC after the last game?  

You know, in football, you have to try to keep the momentum (going). If you recall the last four games, I think that in all four games, we showed our efforts, we showed in the first game where we won that we deserved to win. And then in the next games, we showed the way we wanted to play, with a high press and with the many movements that we wanted to explore on the pitch.

Sometimes when you make individual mistakes, which cracks you down during the game, it affects the result. From outside, I think even the last game where we conceded too easily, like we say, cheap goals in the first half, and then in the second half, we actually responded the way we wanted to by creating many chances. Actually, we had to score a couple of goals, but you know, in football, you have to deserve the likes, you have to deserve those moments.

Of course, we are not happy with the current result, especially the three defeats in the last three games, but we have to stick together, stay positive, and try to play the way we want to play. We want to be an offensive and an aggressive team, and we have lost that momentum. I think that we all are realistic and aware of that. We’re too good to stay quiet, we have to work hard because as Kerala Blasters FC, you always have to work hard for the points. So I think that we will try to switch those moments now and start collecting points.

How are you preparing for the game against NorthEast United FC?

We’re preparing for the game like (we) always (do). Like every time, we’re preparing with our certain staff to show what we manifest, on the pitch, and this is it. We’ve arrived here (Guwahati) and we know that for us, it will be a very tough game against a tough opponent that is also fighting for the points. So, on Saturday, I expect nothing but a big fight. From our side, we’ll try and do the things that we were practising, we will try to do the things that we were preparing every week, and try to play the way we want. So, with a positive attitude like that, we’ll try to achieve points.

NorthEast United FC are yet to win a point. So, what do you think of them as an opponent?

In the last season, when we faced them twice, those were our toughest games because they were a very tough opponent. If you look at the standings right now, it doesn’t give a realistic picture, but in football that's the way it is. I think that Northeast United FC had a very good first game against Bengaluru FC. It’s a strong team with strong individual players and a good coach, and I think they deserve to be higher up the table. It’ll be even harder for us to win because they are yet to get their first points.

Fans want the team to start winning games. What do you think about that?

I think we are the first ones to want that. You know, because every game, whether we play at home or away, we want to win, so that's our goal. We always go on the pitch with the idea to win the game: how to approach, how to start, how to press, how to attack, how to defend, and we are the first ones (to do that). Our mind is always to win, especially with the fans. When we lose, we feel sorry for them. When we win, we are happy for them. So, this is the way we will continue.

Have you considered any strategic change for the next match?

Yes and no because I like the fact that many players show that passion and they show that they are not happy with the current results and want to give it back on the pitch. They want to show that it was a bad momentum and they want to stop that. So, I like that fact, I like the passion and energy they show. With the commitment we have as a team to each other, I think that we are capable of starting to collect points.

The team has conceded 10 goals in the last four matches. Is this a worrying factor?

Oh, absolutely, but, you know, when you are in a situation where you have to run for the result, when you’re 0-1 or 0-2 down, then you have to take more risk, you have to attack because you want to get back into the game. So, of course it worries us. I think, defensively, we will have to be more concentrated and aware of situations, especially speaking about set-pieces where we have to clear some situations, we must not be casual, we must be aggressive.

So, all those things must fit together in one puzzle, you know, the things that we were doing, especially speaking about last year, even if it's like now, it's like ancient history, we have to start repeating those things. Being consistent, being disciplined, in a way to defend altogether to not allow our opponents to score goals. These are the things that we have to manage back again. We’re all the same players, we’re all the same coaches, we just have to get back in it. In football, there is only one way, stick together, work together and work hard for the result. This is the only way and we will continue to do our best, that's for sure.

Here are the excerpts from Rahul KP’s press conference:

You had your first start in the last game. So, how do you feel about that?

(It) feels good to start, for sure. Every player likes to start for their team, but it also depends on how you fit into the team. You always have to fight hard to be in the team (playing XI). There’s competition to be in the team so you always have to be fighting every day (to get the chance). At the end of the day, when you get the chance, you need to prove (yourself), and also listen to the coach on how he wants the team to play and also depends on the habit to play.

But then it's not about playing, it's about winning, you know, I can play and lose games and not be happy about it. Also, I can be not playing and maybe the team wins, and I can be happy about it. So, those are two (different) things. After all, we want to win as a team, that’s why we’re here, training every day, putting in lots of effort. Also, the coaching staff, they make preparations for us to train which is not an easy job.

Sometimes, it’s so easy to judge people, but then there is a lot of preparation behind it. Every day, we’re trying to be disciplined, not just me but all the players, the coaching staff, everyone who works for the club, and that's something everyone needs to understand. As I said, as a player, I’m not going to give up. As coach, he (Vukomanovic) keeps the positivity going within the team, positive thoughts and everything on the field every day. As players, we need to listen to him, follow his instructions, and give our personal best on the pitch.