ISL: Vingada wants Kerala Blasters to play the game of their lives against ATK

Recently-appointed Kerala Blasters coach Nelo Vingada is confident of his side putting up an improved display when it hosts ATK in the Indian Super League on Friday.

Kerala Blasters players engage in a training session on the eve of their Indian Super League clash against ATK.   -  H. Vibhu

A lot has happened at Kerala Blasters during the winter break. The team’s two big names, C. K. Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary, have been loaned out to Chennaiyin FC and at one stage, there was even talk that Sandesh Jhingan could move elsewhere. 

Clearly the Kochi-based team, which now has Portugal’s Nelo Vingada as its head coach replacing Englishman David James, does not inspire much confidence as it takes on Kolkata’s ATK -- the only side it has beaten this season -- in the Indian Super League at the Nehru Stadium here on Friday evening.

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Vingada made it clear that though he has been with the team for just about three days, he is sure that his boys are capable of playing much better than they have in their first 12 games.

With six games to go, he wants his team to perform and and win back the fans who have kept away from the side's last two home games.

“I’ve told them, ‘tomorrow is the game of our lives’,” said the 65-year-old on the eve of the game. “It’s not just enough to play well, we have to be real great fighters to show everybody that we are playing much above our capacity.”

Vingada said he would not have let go of Vineeth and Narzary had he come earlier. “The decision to loan Vineeth and Narzary was made before I arrived. Vineeth may not be very young but he is an important player because he can smell the goals.”

Jhingan is still with the Blasters and the Kochi side has traded goalkeepers with FC Goa, offering Naveen Kumar on loan for Lalthuammawia Ralte. The team has also signed Assam’s young Baoringdao Bodo but missing will be midfielder Zakeer Mundampara who has been banned by the AIFF for six months for violent conduct against a referee in an earlier game.

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Meanwhile, the ATK is bolstered by the arrival of Spaniard Edu Garcia and defender Pritam Kotal in the winter transfer window.

Coach Steve Coppell, who had guided Blasters to the final in the third ISL edition, has high expectations from his new signings.

“Our problem has been scoring goals and converting chances. We thought Edu would complement our attack going forward in creation and conversion of chances. It would give us more power up front,” said the Englishman.