Kerala Blasters have a good chance of qualifying for the play-offs says Steve Coppell
“I think they’ve only had a rough start in terms of results as some of their games have been close. That applies to the whole league as well, the games have been very close and have been changed by refereeing decisions or good individual play. There is not a lot of difference between the teams. I look at Goa with nothing but respect. Under Zico they’ve been on top in the last two years and we will come here to play well and win the game,” Coppell said.
“What I would say is it’s based on results. We’ve conceded three goals and all of them had deflections. There is a margin of luck in the league. We can judge teams only at the end of the 14 games. If a team wins three games on the bounce, which every team in this league is capable of, chances are they are going to be in the play-offs. And as it has been, you don’t need to win the league to win the tournament.
“All teams including ourselves have the chance to win the bounce. Goa have history of doing this, they know what the league is all about. We judge ourselves against Chennaiyin FC, Atletico de Kolkata and FC Goa – teams that have been at the top for two seasons,” he opined.
“We’ve only had five games so I cannot say if playing at home is an advantage. There are not a lot of stadiums that have the fans close by and are intimidating. Stadiums here have running tracks around them and that distances them from the action. So it’s not as intimidating as England and Europe. If Zico says there’s not much difference between playing home and away I agree with him,” Coppell revealed.
“I think we’re solid and well organized but obviously we are not scoring many goals. As everyone says in football, it’s eleven versus eleven. We are doing well in defense because their forwards are doing their part in attack and we need the defense to be a strong base on which we can go forward. After five games, the league is congested and we can only determine which are the better teams and why after ten games,” the Englishman underlined.
The Tuskers come into this game on the back of a six-day rest and Coppell believes that the break gives his squad time to travel, recover and train.
“Ideally, four or five days of rest would suit me. It gives you time to travel, recover and train. We are here to win football games and not enjoy beautiful Goa. Five days, six days doesn’t make much difference,” he replied.
The gaffer has been quite the tinkerman this season and is yet to settle upon a combination.
“I don’t think you can have the same formation every game. It depends on the opposition. We are into this phase of the tournament where suspensions and injuries are kicking in and we need to have strong players who are resilient and can play 14 games in eight weeks. It’s demanding. At the end of the season the team that wins it will be the team that has the strongest core of players,” he opined.
“It will be an open game. I think both teams want to win the game. It’s not a question of being frightened of losing. We will look to attack and play well, I’m sure Goa will as well. It’s their responsibility as they are at home to take the game to us so hopefully it will be a good attacking game,” wished the former Manchester United winger.
Coppell denied that there was a concious effort to solidify the rearguard at the expense of the attack, saying they will look to improve in all areas as the season went on.
“I don’t think there was a concentration of getting the defense right at the expense of attack. Before the season began, some people would criticize me on having too many forwards and we’ve hardly scored a goal. In training we try to be more solid in defense, more creative in midfield and more clinical in attack. It’s an ongoing nine-week challenge,” he reflected.
He felt that a manager can never be happy with his side, especially in a short league like the ISL: “You never arrive. If you’re coaching in England for ten and a half months you never are happy and so is the case here. You’ve got 14 games here and you have to be in the top four.”
Coppell refused to think of the Goa match as the second in their four-match travel, rather content with considering one game at a time.
“No, I don’t look at this as batches of games. I just look at one game. How do we go about winning the next game. We assess the opposition and see how we can go about it. I don’t look at four games and say ‘Oh four games away what do we do about it’. The next game is Goa and after that is Chennai. I haven’t even had a look at Chennai! All that any football team can do is look at the next game and see how to win it. That’s where I hope we are at,” he elucidated.
He called the ISL the biggest challenge for any manager.
“I’ve said this before, this is the biggest challenge for any manager. Because, you are more or less given a squad of players, there isn’t a lot of say in the selection of the squad. You are given not one or two but many coaches. We have to combine and make a style of play that suits the different types of players and then try and be successful. So, I think in fifteen weeks of football, this is one of the biggest challenges in world football. Not just for me but for the organization and all the clubs,” he felt.
Kerala Blaster will play FC Goa on Monday and he said that fans can expect a new aggressive Blasters on the field.