After a difficult start to their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign against ATK Mohun Bagan, Kerala Blasters will be looking to put the record straight when they meet NorthEast United on Thursday. Head coach Kibu Vicuna addressed the media in the pre-match press conference where he fielded myriad questions about his side’s approach to the season. Excerpts-
On NorthEast United and the disparity in budget between the two sides
NorthEast played a very good match against a strong Mumbai City outfit. They are very organised and compact. They did drop off in the beginning but also had a lot of chances to score. Their fast counter attacks through the wings is something that we will have to be careful about. It is definitely going to be a tough challenge. But what matters is the performance on the day. Once the ball starts rolling, it’s just about the tactics, performances and the passion that you show on the pitch. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how you assembled the team.
On the challenge of getting his squad up to speed
It has been an exceptional year for everyone. It will definitely take more time to build the squad but we will get better and stronger with every match. We have lots of young players as well as quite a few new ones and we are in the process of creating a style and identity that will win us matches and at the same time help us play entertaining football.
On Rahul KP, Nishu Kumar and Sahal Abdul Samad being the standout Indian players for Kerala Blasters
Rahul and Nishu were not fit for the match against ATK Mohun Bagan. Nishu is training with the team now and he is in a better moment than last week. We’ll have to see if they are ready for tomorrow or if they need more time. They are both very important players for us and will start once they are at 100%. Sahal is also very important to how we play. He has lots of qualities that I like. In the first match also he had his chances which he couldn’t take but he’ll do better in the upcoming games.
On the importance of pre-season friendlies
Friendlies are always important. When we got to know that the entire ISL will be held in Goa, I told the Sporting Director (Karolis Skinkys) that we’ll need a few friendly games to get ready for the season. We have 31 players in the squad at the moment. So it is very important to have friendly games for the development of the younger players and to improve them individually and tactically as a team.
On the difference in level between the ISL and the I-League
Both the leagues are very good and have a lot of good teams. In terms of the organisation of the tournament itself, the ISL is great. The bio-bubbles, security, training facilities and stadiums are all top class. The level of coaching and the level of domestic and foreign players is very high as well. I am really enjoying my time in the ISL.
On his side’s defeat in the first match and what he aims to do differently
Every game of football is different. We controlled the game well in certain parts against ATK Mohun Bagan but conceded a soft goal. The final third is the most difficult part of the pitch and the only way to score more is to create more dangerous moments. I was generally happy with the performance though because the boys gave their 100%. I’m trying to make the team better and am not focused on individuals. We can only work better and try to take advantage of the chances that we create.
On the players that Kerala Blasters could have retained
Well this has been a very different situation for all the clubs you know. Every team has been trying to build a strong squad. As a result, some players had already signed elsewhere while some others were looking for different options. But I don’t want to think about that. I think we have a strong team and I am completely focused on the players that we have. They have lots of experience and quality and each of them will be very important over the course of the season.