ISL: Blasters, Pune City to go all out for a win

Coach Steve Coppell has pushed away Kerala Blasters’ 5-0 caning in its last game against Mumbai City out of his head and is now plotting a way past FC Pune City when the two teams meet in a crucial ISL clash on Friday.

Kerala Blasters during a training session.   -  Special Arrangement

This is no time to brood over a big thrashing. It’s a new day, one that comes with fresh hope. With the race to the playoffs getting hot, Steve Coppell has pushed away Kerala Blasters’ 5-0 caning in its last game against Mumbai City out of his head and is now plotting a way past FC Pune City when the two teams meet in a crucial Indian Super League encounter at the Nehru Stadium here on Friday.

Three teams – Atletico de Kolkata, Pune and the Blasters – are tied with 15 points behind the top two squads Mumbai City and Delhi Dynamos and the Kochi side enjoys a few things in its favour, including a packed home stadium, as it takes on Pune in its 12th round game.

Pune is a weary bunch, one that landed here from Guwahati in the early minutes of Thursday after a loss against NorthEast United. And though the visitor is a rung above the Blasters in fourth spot in the eight-team league table with a superior goal difference, the Kochi side has two of its last three games at home while Pune has just two games to go and both of them away.

So, is it a good time to play Pune?

“I don’t know, it’s difficult to say. I think for most teams now, their recovery strategies are so good it might be more of a mental thing than a physical thing,” said Coppell, the Blasters’ head coach, on Thursday. “I think the fact that every team is still with a chance of being in the playoffs is terrific. It’s entertaining and it just shows that the league is on a good footing when it’s so equal. It’s all to play for.”

The previous encounter, between the Blasters and Pune ended in a 1-1 draw, but both the teams will be going all out for a victory to make it to the top four.

“Both of us will looking be looking for a win,” said David Molinar, Pune’s assistant coach who said that the team’s head coach Antonio Habas was unwell with fever and cough. “We are ready to win but the team is a little tired. And Kerala, with 55,000 fans behind it, will be a very tough team to play.”

Molinar felt that around 20 points will be needed for a place in the playoffs, the semifinal phase.

“I think you will need a minimum of 19 or 20 to get to the playoffs…with 18 it will be very, very difficult. There are many teams which are very close.”

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