Kerala Blasters have made more than just a decent start to their campaign in the Hero Indian Super League and will look at the massive home advantage to see them through against Delhi Dynamos at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi on Saturday.
The Blasters find themselves in the top half of the table with four points from two games. The two-time finalists were in fine fettle in the season opener against ATK as they notched their maiden win on Kolkata soil. They seemed to have bagged a second consecutive win before a gem of a strike from Pranjal Bhumij in the dying minutes saw them settle for a point against Mumbai City FC.
“Delhi are an interesting team. They do like to mix it up. What I like about them is they are like us as they have gone with a youthful squad. When you add talent to that, they become a very dangerous side. Delhi have got potential but we have to make sure we are in the right (frame of mind),” said Blasters manager David James.
Former India under-17 goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh has a ‘best-in-the-league’ save percentage of 85.71% and looks set to start between the sticks again for them. Sandesh Jhingan and Nemanja Lakic-Pesic have also formed a formidable partnership in defence that has also featured Mohammed Rakip and Lalruatthara. Jhingan & co. have conceded only one goal so far and will pose a tough challenge to the Delhi forwards.
Dynamos’ assistant coach Mridul Banerjee is also mindful of Kerala’s defensive strength.
“Blasters are a very good team and I have coached a few players in that side. They have done very well in their last two matches. Blasters have a strong defence. It will be tough but we will give our best,” he said.
Under new boss Josep Gombau, the Dynamos were handed two home matches to kick off their campaign in the fifth season of the ISL. Those two matches have yielded just a point, although the Dynamos will feel they could have won both.
In their opener against Pune City, Delhi seemed destined for a win before a late equalizer from Diego Carlos. In their 1-2 loss to ATK, the hosts were guilty of some wayward finishing and conceded another late goal.
“We are trying to solve this problem of conceding late goals. We are working on that and hoping to concede as few goals as possible,” expressed Banerjee.
Lallianzuala Chhangte and Nandhakumar Sekar have been lively on the flanks but Gombau will be hoping striker Andrija Kaludjerovic can find his scoring boots soon. In fact, Delhi’s forwards have the lowest shot accuracy so far with just 25 per cent.
Kerala are chasing their first home win of the season while Gombau’s men are hunting for their first victory. Brace yourself for another cracker of a contest.