Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic commended his opponent’s style of play as his team will take on NorthEast United FC in their penultimate Indian Super League (ISL) game at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday.

The Blasters, who have been winless since February, have only managed to get a single point from their last four matches. Despite having confirmed their playoff qualification, Vukomanovic’s men will be eager to build on positive momentum ahead of the knockout stages with some positives results in the last few games. 

Notably, the Highlanders are not only winless against the Blasters in their last five meetings but also winless in their last three ISL games. However, Vukomanovic anticipates a tough, challenging outing against Juan Pedro Benali’s team, who are still fighting to secure their spot in the playoffs.

“The team (NorthEast United FC) that suffered in the past a lot is now with a new coach, new staff, a good approach, and some good new players. They have created a nice environment and a nice team,” he said in the pre-match press conference.

“Most probably, they can take a late participation in the playoffs. They have all the qualities. They are a good team and a tough opponent while playing at home. Let’s have a good game and let the better team win,” he added.

Kerala Blasters FC had played Jamshedpur FC away between their two home games against Mohun Bagan SG and East Bengal FC. Before going off for another away game against NorthEast United FC, Vukomanovic explained the difficulties his team suffered during the long away trips. However, the head coach also gave an insight that he might introduce some new faces against the Highlanders, offering them some match time to keep his regular starters completely fit ahead of the playoff round.

“It's always tough with an away game, especially when it's far away from Kochi. Flying and arriving here can be challenging. Especially considering the fact that we've played two more games in the last seven days, with a heavy away game in Jamshedpur,” he shared.

“There will be a couple of changes and a couple of guys making their debut. Seeing some young players take their first steps in the ISL is exciting, and we want to give them playing time for their development. Also, getting some players fresh with fresh legs on the pitch is crucial because it's exhausting to play many games in a short period,” he continued.

The Blasters will miss Jeakson Singh, Naocha Singh, and Hormipam Ruivah following their suspension against East Bengal FC. Vukomanovic revealed that Dimitrios Diamantakos, Adrian Luna and Fedor Cernych will also not be involved against the Highlanders and said that most players who started against NorthEast United FC will be on the bench.

“Luna, Diamantakos, and Fedor Cernych are not with us. Most of the players who played in the last game will be on the bench,” he mentioned.

“Playing these kinds of games in the short term is too risky, especially since some of them already have some problems. It feels like we're still in Jamshedpur because last week we traveled from Kochi, which is a 14-hour journey for us. Then we stayed there, got back to Kochi, didn't have a training session, and had to play against East Bengal FC the next morning,” he signed off.

We are taking these games seriously: Lara Sharma


Lara Sharma attended the press conference with his head coach ahead of their next away game against NorthEast United FC. The 25-year-old goalkeeper is optimistic about bringing out some positive outcomes from their last two games to go into the knockout stage with a confident mindset.

“We have already qualified, but we are taking these games seriously, and we are focused because these two games will give us positive energy for the playoff games. We are ready for that,” he shared.