Kochi: Kerala Blasters are back to square one as they aim to regroup under new coach Nelo Vingada for the visit of ATK, an opponent they overpowered 2-0 on the first day of the Indian Super League season but havenât won any other match since.
As the ISL resumes today from a winter break that was introduced in the wake of Indiaâs campaign at the ongoing Asian Cup in UAE, focus shifts to the two teams that has featured in two of the four finals since the league began in 2014.
Kerala that went into the break after a humiliating 6-1 loss to Mumbai City on December 16 have since replaced their head coach and let go a bunch of key players in the January transfer window that is still open. Shortly before the arrival of former NorthEast United head coach Vingada, who replaced David James last week, Kerala had lost C.K. Vineeth, Halicharan Narzary and Naveen Kumar on loan, the first two to Chennaiyin and the goalkeeper to FC Goa.
Vingada said those transfers happened before he signed and that he wouldâve liked to work with the likes of Vineeth and Narzary if they were present.
âBut I like to work with the players that are available,â said Vingada. âThe most important thing for us now is to get the confidence back and earn the respect of the fans,â said the Portuguese man.
Captain Sandesh Jhingan put an end to the rumours that linked him with a move away from Kerala by appearing beside the manager at the pre-match. Coach Vingada said: âMy tactics and my system make up only five per cent (vs ATK), the rest depends on the attitude and spirit of our players.â
Meanwhile, the visitors have a lot more at stake, as with only four points behind NorthEast United that is fourth in the table, Steve Coppellâs side are hoping to get off the blocks quickly.
ATK recently roped in midfielder Edu Garcia from Bengaluru and defender Pritam Kotal from Delhi and striker Kalu Uche is fit again.
Englishman Coppell, who coached Kerala to the 2016 final, is wary of Kerala. âIt is hard to try and predict what they are going to do but with six games to go we know our agenda. Our focus will have to be more internal.,â Coppell said.
âIt is inevitable that the players will try to impress the new coach. We know we have to be at our best to get something out of the game,â he added.