ISL 2017: Kerala’s inside knowledge of NorthEast holds key to win

Kochi (Kerala): Kerala Blasters are one of only two teams who have not won a match in the fourth edition of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), but coach Rene Meulensteen is confident that a win is just around the corner.

Kerala Blasters will face the NorthEast United FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday and a clutch of players from the north east region can give them an added boost.

Assistant coach Thangboi Singto, former coach of Shillong Lajong FC, is also someone who has extensive knowledge of players from the region and Rene admitted they have plenty to benefit.

“It’s special for those set of players from the Northeast. That’s an extra dimension (for this game), sure for both sets of players. Thangboi is a very good help for us and can give insight into certain players and certain elements of their game. Hopefully, we can take advantage of that,” Meulensteen said during the pre-match media interaction.

Kerala Blasters have seven players from the Northeast region and the coach said there is a derby feeling about this clash.

“It might be emotional but the important thing is that they don’t let their emotions run their game. The key is to stick to the plan that we have devised. There is emotional attachment because of where they come from,” said Meulensteen, who will miss the injured Dimitar Berbatov, but will welcome CK Vineeth, Wes Brown and Iain Hume.

NorthEast United FC coach Joao de Deus has heard about the players from the region in the opposition dugout as well as his team’s inability to win in Kochi for three years running. That said, he remained unperturbed about it having a major impact on the game. Asked whether Singto’s knowledge could prove to be the difference, the coach was dismissive.

“He can know all my players but does he know my ideas of the game, does he? My players will play with the ideas that the coach has. That is not anything of relevance,” said Joao de Deus.

NorthEast United FC arrived in Kochi after unfortunately losing to Bengaluru FC at home.

The coach felt they should have at least got a point but a mistake from goalkeeper TP Rehenesh proved to be their undoing.

“TP was injured during the warm-up session of the previous game and could not kick with his right foot. The mistake (against Bengaluru FC) happened when he kicked with his left foot. He is now completely well. TP will play and kick with his right foot,” said the coach.

NorthEast United FC are placed seventh on the table with four points from four matches. Still without a win, Kerala Blasters are a rung below with three points.