Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic seemed pleased after his team’s excellent outing during the last week and is determined to play with the same approach while taking every Hero Indian Super League (ISL) game as it comes. His team will be up against another tough opponent, Hyderabad FC, on Saturday at the GMC Balayogi Stadium in Hyderabad.

The coach is happy with the squad he has and says he is always honest with his players and wants them to keep evolving on the pitch as every opponent comes out with a different approach. He said so while praising the younger bunch in the team, who he thinks have settled in well with the whole squad.

Vukomanovic was accompanied by club striker Dimitrios Diamantakos in the official pre match press conference of the Hero ISL.

Here are the excerpts from Ivan Vukomanovic’s press conference:

In the last match, your team outplayed FC Goa. On Saturday, another tough game will be waiting in the wings for you. What are your plans to counter Hyderabad FC?

Vukomanovic: Every game and opponent in this league is different. In the last game, we knew we were up against a team that was best in possession, they like to play that style, and we wanted to find ways to play against them and close down their key players. We thought that approach could help us win the game and get all three points, which eventually happened.

It was the first time in six years that Kerala Blasters FC managed to defeat FC Goa, and we are very thankful to our fans and supporters who helped us get there.

On Saturday, we know that we are facing one of the best teams in the league. A team who are working consistently with the coaching staffs and kind of approach we know a bit about since the last year. We played twice in the league stages, won once, and lost once. While in the final we lost on penalties, I expect a physical and tough game with the number of duels, and we have shown that anything is possible in this league.

On Saturday, it is going to be nothing but two teams that want to go for three points and stay higher up the table because both of them have ambitions.

You have made many changes to the starting lineup. Do you think the team is set now?

Vukomanovic: I always praise the squad we have. As a coach, it makes me happy that everybody can play, so it does not matter if someone goes missing on the pitch or what positions we can replace. It was the case last year, and that is the way we want to train. Whatever might happen, I want the boys to jump in and complete the job.

We started our season with one idea, and then as the competition evolved, there were many different games we had to deal with. It needs change to be done, so we count on everybody.

For Saturday, we have different ideas as sometimes we have to change the approach and fight for every point in the league.

In the last game, you chose to sit back and restrict a few of FC Goa’s key players. Do you think a similar approach will work against Hyderabad FC?

Vukomanovic: If you put any team in this league against FC Goa, that team will have difficulties. FC Goa has been playing the same style of football for years now, so their next opponent is a different team with a different mentality and character.

We experienced many things against Hyderabad FC last season, it is different again this time as we will be playing home and away and in front of the fans. It was quite awful last season without the fans. But, even if you have an idea of how to play the game, the opponent should let you perform. They are a tough team and have started well, you have to be perfect to beat a team of Hyderabad FC’s calibre. We will try to do our best and see that after the game we do not have any regrets.

FC Goa and Hyderabad FC are quality teams playing a good style of football. How would you differentiate between these two teams? What would you instruct your players about the last game and Saturday’s game?

Vukomanovic: I am always honest with my players and tell them to believe in our strengths and qualities and what we can explore on the pitch against an opponent of such quality. It depends on whether they will allow you to do that, the second part is the way we need to defend. We always prefer to talk about ourselves in the meetings and show the players what we need to do and how we have to improve rather than being too busy talking about the opponents. With this kind of approach, we are assured of achieving things.

We want to go ahead with this thought process and try to neutralise their weak points.

Players like Rahul Kannoly Praveen are doing really well for themselves and the team. What kind of advice are you giving to your players?

Vukomanovic: I just tell them to go and try to win. Speaking especially about Rahul KP, he missed the entire last season. As a boy this season, he is hungry to succeed and to be back on the pitch while being at the level he wants to be. He is a young guy with full potential, which we want to explore. With such guys, you always want to keep improving and push ourselves to certain limits to see the quality they have.

While playing in front of the home crowd, you do not even need to motivate them. For the local boys in the squad, it is about giving everything on the pitch. They fit extremely well with the new faces in the team who want to fight together for the team, which as a coach is a very nice thing to see.

Given everything, what are your thoughts on Dimitrios Diamantakos?

Vukomanovic: As a player I know Dimitrois very well especially since I have followed him since his early days, be it in Germany or his hometown Greece. I am a keen observer of the European market. We had the opportunity to sign him for Kerala Blasters FC, and we were convinced that we had to get him.

We knew the start of the league would be a bit difficult for Dimitrios, and we had to be patient because the boys work hard to get back to the level they are capable of. Many things need to be taken into consideration while adapting to a new league, and once you get comfortable with the staff and dressing room, you are able to show your true colours. We are happy to have him with us because of the qualities he possesses.

Here are the excerpts from Dimitrios Diamantakos’ press conference:

You have started scoring well and must be feeling far better than when you faced teams earlier. What will your focus be on as Hyderabad FC is one of the formidable teams in the league?

Diamantakos: It has been a good time to know about the Hero ISL, and now I am glad to be scoring goals, but the most important thing is the wins. On Saturday, we will focus on how we trained. In the last few games, we went in aggressively with the same attitude and mentality. I hope we take all three points. It is always about the team, and we will look toward that game by game.

You have played for other teams in the past, and now you have come to India to play for Kerala Blasters FC. How do you rate the Hero ISL when compared to the other leagues that you have played in? Also, how do you rate Kerala Blasters FC as a team?

Diamantakos: The level in India is high and I did not expect it to be so as you listen to a lot of things that in India the level is not so good. There are good players, a combination of Indian and foreign ones, along with good games and good teams. The level is really high.

The most definite change can be seen in the reactions, and the run of the games in India is a bit slower than what I experienced in Europe. But here, the intensity of the game is a bit higher, and playing in such climatic situations is also a little more difficult.