Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic highlighted the challenges his team have faced due to frequent injuries ahead of their Indian Super League (ISL) clash against FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi on Sunday.

Kerala Blasters FC currently holds the fifth position in the league table with 28 points. Their recent form has been challenging, securing only six points in the last five games and suffering three consecutive losses since the league resumed after the international break. The defeat against newly-promoted Punjab FC ended their 13-game unbeaten run at home.

FC Goa, managed by Manolo Marquez, is one spot above the Blasters in fourth position with 28 points. They have also struggled in recent games, losing their last two matches and accumulating only five points in their last five games.

Head Coach Ivan Vukomanovic expressed concern about the team's defensive performance, where they have conceded six goals in the last three ISL matches and a total of 13 goals conceded in the last five games. He attributed this defensive challenge to the frequent squad changes due to injuries.

The team has recently suffered the loss of goalkeeper Sachin Suresh to injury, joining a list of casualties that includes Aiban Dohling, Kwame Peprah, Jaushua Sotirio, and Adrian Luna.

"As a coach and as a team, we are not happy with the conceded goals, especially since these goals led us to defeats," he said in the pre-match press conference.

"But again in every game, we are having to rebuild something new or try to get back the team dynamics that we want as a group. That's how it has been for us since the start of the season. Every game we had to mix and make changes and rebuild things and then repeat the same after another injury, adding players to the lineup," he added.

"It's frustrating because we know we have that quality to perform. But with all these changes we had to implement it's leading us to moments where we conceded goals, lost games and lost some confidence for a moment. But we tried to continue with a smile, with a positive (attitude) to rebuild things and get back to winning ways," he continued.

Vukomanovic shared how he plans to elevate the youngsters in place of the other members of the squad that are out with injuries.

"To counter these injuries, the only way is to use young players," Vukomanovic said.

"This gives them a great opportunity to become an important part of Kerala Blasters FC, proving to the technical staff, the medical staff, and the management that they have the required qualities to become a part of the ISL. It makes me happy to see the way they work and perform and the way they want to fight for every minute in the training session," he added.

The Serbian shared his take on the upcoming match against FC Goa who have been having an excellent season so far. The Gaurs may have lost their last two games, but are currently three points behind leaders Odisha FC while having two games in hand. 

"We are facing one of the best teams in the league. I think they too are also finding themselves. They have had a good period but I think they too are suffering from some injuries (to players like Sandesh Jhingan). Every team, everywhere in every league gets one period during the season, a phase when you lose momentum," the 46-year-old said.

"Against FC Goa, we will get back to that fighting spirit, great mentality on the pitch, fighting for each other, building intensity, running a lot, and trying to overcome the opponents, as we used to do. We have proved that we can beat great teams. It's a great challenge and I hope the boys will show the same passion, hard-working mentality, and character on the pitch, to fight for the logo, for the fans, and have the pleasure of playing at home. One victory in a positive light can change everything," he added.

Goals will come for me: Rahul KP

The 23-year-old India international winger, Rahul KP attended the press conference along with head coach Vukomanovic. Rahul reflected on his performance in this season of ISL so far and admitted that he hasn't quite hit the heights of the past campaigns this season. The forward is yet to score this season despite making q2 league appearances. 

"I really don't know why I haven't scored but I am not worried about that, because I am enjoying the process," Rahul said at the pre-match press conference. 

I feel like goals will come in time, so every day I am working hard and making sure training sessions are fruitful and (I try to) be the best in my training. I am not worried about the destination, I am focused on enjoying the journey. About the form, I definitely know that I have a difficult situation this year but I also had good games. I am never going to stop, always keep going," he added.

The winger also highlighted the absence of key influential players being a key influencing factor on the team's performances lately.

"Yes, the senior players being missing does affect everyone, because we are missing a lot of very important players," Rahul said.

"From the beginning of this season, we never had an opportunity to play with a strong full squad even once. My teammates and all the coaching staff are going with a mindset that as a team we have to fight for each other and that's what we plan to do," he added

"Every day we are living for this," Rahul said as he concluded the press conference.