ISL: Kerala Blasters FC take on NorthEast United FC in must-win encounter

Kerala Blasters FC have a fighting chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Indian Super League but cannot afford to drop points when they take on NorthEast United FC in Guwahati on Saturday.

football Updated: Feb 16, 2018 20:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Kerala Blasters FC,NorthEast United FC,Indian Super League
David James will have to outwit NorthEast United coach Avram Grant, who was his coach at Portsmouth FC in 2010. (ISL / SPORTZPICS)

Kerala Blasters FC coach David James is up against a man who coached him in the past but pleasantries will be exchanged only till kick-off as the visitors look for nothing less than full points against NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday.

Kerala Blasters have a fighting chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Indian Super League with 21 points from 15 matches. They must win all three remaining matches to have a chance of qualifying and may still not make it.

And James, the former England goalkeeper, will have to outwit NorthEast United coach Avram Grant, who was his coach at Portsmouth FC in 2010.

Portsmouth, captained by James, made it to the final of the FA Cup against all odds, where they lost 0-1 to Chelsea FC, who also won the English Premier League that season.

“The coach was my player. Eight years ago we made it to the final of the (FA) Cup. We had an unbelievable achievement. He was the captain. I wish him all the best but we will try to win the game. It’s good for the future that the team will not give up and show good mentality,” said NorthEast United coach Avram Grant during the pre-match media interaction.

NorthEast United are already out of the competition but will need the three points to give their home fans something to cheer. Two of the three victories for NorthEast United have come at home.

“You all know what happened in the first half of the season. We tried to improve things that needed to improve. We came out of the situation. From being good in counter, now we dominate and create a lot of chances. Last three games is typical to what happened, control the game, miss chances and rivals score from one half-attack. The results are better than the first half but not like we expected,” said Grant.

Kerala Blasters allowed defending champions ATK to snatch points from them with a late draw in their last game which halted their run of two successive victories. Assistant coach Hermann Hreidarsson admitted that the focus has been on them ahead of this clash and they are now ready to put their best foot forward.

“We are still in it. We have to go into every game playing for a win. We are happy with our progress. In the last game, we created many chances: 18 shots and 25 crosses,” said Hreidarsson.

Kerala Blasters can reach a maximum of 30 points and will need FC Pune City (28 points), Chennaiyin FC (27 points) and Jamshedpur FC (25 points) to drop points.

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 20:09 IST