Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic feels motivated as his team prepares to host Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Wednesday.

The Blasters currently occupy the fifth spot on the league table with 29 points off their 17 matches. In the reverse fixture, Vukomanovic’s men scraped past the Mariners with a Dimitrios Diamantakos goal to register their first-ever win against Mohun Bagan SG in the ISL. Although the Green and Maroons will look for revenge, the Blasters, on the other hand, will go all out to take home all three points as the playoff qualification knocks at their door.

The head coach expects both teams to clash with each other, highly motivated, as both Kerala Blasters FC and Mohun Bagan SG will be desperate to retain their respective positions on the league table. 

“We always proved that whenever it comes to big games, we never make it boring. Both teams will be motivated, wanting to win the game,” stated Vukomanovic at the pre-match press conference.

He added, “In games like these or in games towards the end of the season, it comes down to small details. One moment or one small mistake can decide the game.”

Kerala Blasters FC are one of the most popular teams in India with the biggest fanbase that creates an electrifying atmosphere in the Kochi Stadium when the Blasters play at home. 

Impressed with this consistency from the fans, the Serbian tactician said, “Our stadium creates an atmosphere where every player whether it's the home player or the away player will want to give their best. We will go out to fight against one of the best teams in the league and show our best face and try to get a positive result.”

Before Vukomanovic took over at Kerala Blasters FC, the Blasters only managed to make it through to the playoffs twice (2014 and 2016) when they ended up as the runner-up of the ISL Cup. But with Vukomanovic at the helm, the team have made it through to the knockout stages in both seasons and are almost there this season too.  

Addressing this improvement, the head coach shared, “Earlier Kerala Blasters FC used to struggle to reach 20 points. Now we are at the level where we can reach 30 points, so it gives us hope that we can reach there. But the process takes time.”

Defender Pritam Kotal has been an important part of the Kerala Blasters FC backline since his arrival back in July 2023. In his 15 matches this season, Kotal has helped his team keep four clean sheets, registering a remarkable 50 recoveries, with five blocks and 23 clearances to follow. 

Full of praise for Kotal, Vukomanovic commented, “Pritam is one of the most experienced players in the ISL. He can play both as a centre-back or as a full-back. With his experience, he is contributing many important things on the pitch and off the pitch. As a coach, we have no problem putting him in any position in defence. We were missing this kind of experienced player in the previous seasons, so we are happy to have him.”

Expecting his team to show character and go all out at home, the 46-year-old shared, “You want to play these kinds of games with the full power, with intensity. The most important part is that you show with your body language and your character that you want to win this game, that's very important.”

Vukomanovic looks forward to a tough game against the Mariners and acknowledged how the team has bounced back from their poor form at the end of the first half of the ISL 2023-24 season.

“It will not be an easy game because they are one of the best teams in the league. It's true that we won against them (in the reverse fixture). But it was a different energy back then in Kolkata. Now they're different because they change the energy with the new coaching staff, it's a different approach,” he said.

We need the three points from this game: Pritam Kotal

Kotal, who was a part of the Mariners till his transfer to Kerala Blasters FC, accompanied the head coach for the press conference. 

Expressing his desire to take home all three points, he said, “Every match is important for us. We have prepared well for this game for the last 6-7 days. We will give our best for this game. We need three points from this game."

The Blasters have shown a decent defensive display so far this season conceding only 19 goals, but the Mariners attacking trio of Dimitri Petratos, Armando Sadiku, and Jason Cummings have been running riot in their frontline, contributing 21 goals and five assists already this season. 

Apart from these three strikers, the Mariners also flaunt players like Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa, Liston Colaco and Manvir Singh who can make a cakewalk of defenders building up the attack for Habas’ side.

Sharing his outlook on how the home team will tackle such a dangerous opposition, the 30-year-old said, “We need to defend against eleven players and stay compact. They have more quality players than just their strikers, so we need to defend well against the whole team.”