Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic wants his players to keep their emotions in check as they take on FC Goa in a Hero Indian Super League (ISL) match at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi on Sunday.

The Blasters have lost the last two matches on home soil and are looking to improve their record at home that doesn’t make a good reading.

However, they have a poor record against the Gaurs who haven’t tasted defeat against the Blasters since 2016 and considering the form of the two teams will go into the match in a confident mood.

Vukomanovic and Sahal Abdul Samad addressed the media ahead of the FC Goa clash.

Here are the excerpts from the pre-match press conference:

You won the last match but it wasn't against an opponent that was as strong as FC Goa. How difficult will be to face FC Goa?

Vukomanovic: We must be honest speaking about the last match. We were playing against a team which is the bottom of the table. these games are the most difficult. Even last season when we played against NorthEast United FC, it was very difficult because these games may feel easy but it's a trap and if you are not ready enough, you are casual and then you fall into the trap and you lose those games. We knew that in that game we had to concentrate and be focused in order to collect three points. That was the case and I am really happy about the players who started from the beginning but also about players who came on from the bench and they made a difference. In FC Goa, we are facing one of the best teams in the league, a team that likes to play football and likes to be tough in duels. So it will be an interesting game to watch and an interesting game to play. Even last year we played two interesting games against them, so I am expecting a very hard game for both teams.

You had predicted an ugly match against Odisha FC. How do you predict the match against FC Goa?

Vukomanovic: Our games are always interesting because they can go both ways. We are the team that wants to attack, that wants to press high. We want to have a certain style. The game on Sunday will be more of a character game where both teams will have to control their emotions in certain moments of the game. I think the team that keeps emotions under control and displays intelligence about managing the game will win this game. So, this will not just be a technical and tactical battle it will also be an emotional battle. Small details like set pieces and other things will make the difference.

How much comfort level does the fans' presence give you?

Vukomanovic: I like it a lot. The moment we leave the hotel and we see the sea of yellow on the street knowing that there will be huge support makes me thrilled and enthusiastic. I like that feeling as it gives me goosebumps. It gives you a feeling of love that makes you want to be there. For us, it's a motivational boost that pushes us to give something extra for those fans whether we are playing against FC Goa or any other team.

What are the areas of improvement for the team?

Vukomanovic: Last year we were the youngest team in the league. We had the most minutes by the young players and we also had the most clean sheets. So from the beginning, we had difficulties. We want to get back to that level where we are capable of holding the defensive line, and keeping clean sheets because it gives us confidence. In a game, there are many aspects that are important. The way we want to defend, the way we want to attack, the way we want to press together and how we want to be compact. Every week we try and do things differently, so we can't point at one issue every week and we have to do multiple things together. We want to find that balance. Many teams are still in that phase because they don't have the possibility to play these kinds of games before the season with consistency and when the Hero ISL starts everyone is still looking for their best options. So, I think we will get back in the shape like last season where we can be more consistent in the way we play and in turn have more confidence and collect more points.  

What are the strong points that you will rely on FC Goa?

Vukomanovic: Teamwork, team spirit, defending together, being clinical in transitions. When we create chances we need to take them. This season and also last season we have always been capable of creating chances and that makes me happy as a coach because you work on that and you prepare those things. In games against very good teams, you will not have 15 chances, so when you create one or two chances you must have the concentration to score. So this is important when you play against strong teams. As the season progresses, more teams will be more focused and won't allow teams more chances so that's why we must be more clinical.

What is your assessment of the coordination between the midfield and the defensive line?

Vukomanovic: This is the thing we are working on on a daily basis. We have to move together to stay compact. When you want to be the dominant team, you have to press high up the pitch and then you have to deal with the balls behind and we have to run back. You will see this in all top leagues. When you defend in a lower block you have to understand how to close the lines and how to use the space behind the opponent's back. We work on all these aspects depending on what opponent we are going to face.

Why do you think there is a big difference in the performance of the team in the first half and second half?

Vukomanovic: In football, all the teams are more focused at the start of the match. We often see that the first half ends 0-0. Then in the second half after the team talks, there is a change of strategy. So in our case, in the last game, we had a couple of new names in the starting XI. Then you have this part of the game where you need to adapt to a different kind of pitch, different kind of movement. Even though we know each other, this is the part where you are trying to find confidence on the ball. Once the players gather confidence, they feel good and then it gives you more quality. Then you can change things and you score goals. These kinds of things happen in football.

As a coach it makes me feel good because if you are in trouble and are capable of reacting then you will be the team that will have things under control.

In the last match, you played Sandeep as left-back and Nishu Kumar as right-back? What was the reason for the inverted positions?

Vukomanovic: It was just based on the feeling of the first game that they both can play on the other side. Even if you see last season Sandeep played in that position in the semi-final and final. So we have full confidence in them and we are happy that they can play on both sides. It was just a choice in the last match that we wanted pace and quality in the wide areas.

What does Bijoy have to do to be a part of the Kerala Blasters FC matchday squad?

Vukomanovic: Till recently, he had a small injury and then we wanted to have him back in shape. In the last few matches, it was about filling the foreign options on the bench and so you don't have two central defenders on the bench to have more offensive options. He is a great guy and a great player and soon he will get his chance to play.

Here are excerpts from Sahal Abdul Samad’s press conference:

How are you feeling after scoring two goals in the last match?

Sahal: Scoring a goal is a confidence booster for any footballer. It was very refreshing for me. I haven't been able to help the team as much as I thought I would, including the last game. Personally, this goal gives me confidence.