Last edition runners-up Kerala Blasters would look to log their first win this season when they take on new entrants Jamshedpur FC in their second match of the Indian Super League season four on Friday. The match at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium on Friday will see current Jamshedpur head coach Steve Coppell returning to his old stomping ground where he guided Kerala Blasters to the final last year. Coppell was the at the helm of affairs when Kerala Blasters lost to the then Atletico de Kolkata via penalty shootout in the summit clash at the same venue last year but he has now shifted base to Jamshedpur this season.
Kerala Blasters played out a goal-less draw against the now rechristened ATK in their opening match here on November 17 and they would now look for a win on Friday against Jamshedpur. Friday's match will also be interesting to see how the 'Yellow Army' supporters of Kerala Blasters react to the opposition players after the pre-tournament 'duel' between the fans of the two sides.
The roping in of Coppell and his assistant Ishfaq Ahmed and some players by Jamshedpur has led to the 'hacking' of the Wikipedia page of the Tata Steel-owned ISL newbies and calling them 'Curry Leaves of Kerala Blasters'. Jamshedpur supporters retaliated and they also hacked the Wikipedia page of Kerala Blasters and described them as 'old age home' in a reference to the signings of a few above 30- year-old players. Englishman Coppell said he had very fond memories of his stint here.
"I'm very happy to be in Kochi and see some of my old players, to see the fans and the stadium. It brings back a lot of happy memories for me from last season. The reception I've had so far on the streets is lovely and it's nice to be remembered," Coppell said.
"But it's a new season and I'm here to do a job for someone else. That's what happens in football," the former Manchester United winger said. Jamshedpur also played out a goal-less draw against NorthEast United FC in their opening match in Guwahati on November 18, and Coppell said his side would go for a win on Friday.
Kerala Blasters head coach Rene Meulensteen faced a frustrating evening on the opening day against ATK. His side took 10 shots but hit the target only five times, and he admitted that his players will have to work harder to improve the final product while attacking.
"I know Steve (Coppell) and I expect his team to be very difficult to beat. It will be direct and they can catch you unaware. He will have the team well organised, hardworking and hard to break down. So we need to show a lot of quality, be alert and produce a high level of energy," the Dutchman said.
Meulensteen also hinted that Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov could play in the hole behind the striker, a position from where he had the most influence in the previous game after he started as a lone striker.
"We have to maximise the quality we have and we try out different options to do that. I have players who can play in different positions and this helps me rotate them on the frontline. It also gives us some unpredictability up front," he said.