Kerala Blasters keen to keep playoff hopes alive

The team takes on a struggling North East United at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Saturday.

To book a spot in the knockouts, Kerala Blasters needs to win its remaining three ISL fixtures and figure among the top four teams at the end of the league stage.   -  H. Vibhu

North East United FC’s celebrated coach Avram Grant could not help but recall an incident of 2010 as his side prepared to host Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League fixture here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Saturday.

Speaking about the upcoming duel, Grant remembered the time eight years ago when he guided Portsmouth FC to the final of the FA Cup with the former England goalkeeper and the current coach of Blasters, David James, then captaining his side.

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This sets an interesting prelude to the ISL match when two former colleagues turn up against each other in a different setting. James will be up against his former coach but the sweet memories of the past will be quickly receding to the background when his team embarks on the task of defeating Grant’s NorthEast United in the quest for points that will keep it in the hunt for a place in the play-offs. With 21 points from 15 outings, Kerala Blasters needs to win its remaining three ISL fixtures and figure among the top four teams at the end of the league stage. The host, lying in the ninth spot with 11 points from 15 games, is already out of the reckoning but Grant insisted on finishing the home engagements on a bright note.

‘My player’

“The coach (James) was my player. Eight years ago, we made it to the final of the (FA) Cup. We had an unbelievable achievement. I wish him all the best but we will try to win the game. It is will be good for the future that the team does not give and show a good mentality,” Grant said.

Blasters’ assistant coach Hermann Hreioarsson, who came in for an indisposed David James, said the team is on the right track, picking up seven points from two wins and a draw in the previous three outings. With the former Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov showing good form and fitness, the visitor’s motivation level is on a new high.

“We were in a position where we needed to win six games. So far we have won two and drawn the last one (against ATK). So, we are still in it now need more wins to get there,” Hreioarsson said ahead of the game.

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