Schattorie: Wary of ATK’s threat but we are ready for any challenge

Kerala Blasters FC face two-time champions ATK in the opening encounter of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. The new-look Kerala side under former NorthEast United FC head coach Eelco Schattorie will look to start off their campaign with a win over their arch-rivals, in front of their home fans. The yellow brigade had a forgettable season last term, finishing ninth in the table and will be eager to put up a much better showing this time around, starting with the high-intensity opening fixture against ATK.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Schattorie stated that he was very much wary of ATK's threat, particularly going forward. "I think ATK have a very good squad, especially up front. They have good Indian and foreign players who can score goals. In the end, football is about scoring goals. I’m sure they have one of the best teams in the league on paper. We must be ready," he analysed.

Speaking about the importance of putting on a good performance in the opening match, the Dutchman said, "It’s the opening match so it’s a very important one. In football, the opening games are always difficult. We have a few players who have never played in front of huge crowds. It’s all about stabilising the team. I think we’re ready to face ATK and get the momentum going. Hopefully, it will be a good start to the season."

Kerala will be without their talismanic defender Sandesh Jhingan, who recently sustained an injury which may rule him out for a considerable period of time. It prompted the club to rope in experienced defender Raju Gaikwad to bolster the backline. Asked about how his key player's absence may affect the team, Schattorie opted to keep the discussion limited to the side's preparations as a whole. "The club did everything to build a good team but unfortunately our pre-season wasn't perfect. Basically, we are two-three weeks behind and we need to catch up. We brought in Raju (Gaikwad) because we needed more Indian centre backs with experience. We need a little more time. We have a good bunch of guys who are willing to work hard."

Although their pre-season might have been subpar, Schattorie seemed confident about his team’s prospects in the long run. "In terms of depth, I have a better team than I had last year. At the same time, we have a lot of young players. In football, you need to have the correct ingredients to make a good team and we have a great team. We have a young team and the whole team is almost new. Overall, my team is ready to face any challenge we get."

Kerala's local boy Rahul KP, who is in line to play his first Hero ISL season, accompanied the gaffer to the presser. "I’m young and I want to learn more. I’m happy to have him (Schattorie) as my coach. Every training session he finds something to help me out and tells me what to do. All seniors and foreigners are very helpful. He is trying to bring the best out of us. I know I’m young so I should not be in a hurry,” the 19-year-old said, commenting on his expectations from the season.

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