Kolkata, Feb 2 (IANS): Kerala Blasters FC will have the opportunity to establish a four-point cushion over ATK Mohun Bagan in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23, if they nab all three points against East Bengal FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, here on Friday.
A win will be crucial at this juncture for the Blasters to be confident in the playoff spots, while the Torch Bearers are out of contention for the same.
East Bengal FC are currently ninth on the table and ten points shy of the final playoff spot. Last week, the Torch Bearers scored two second-half goals but ended up losing 4-2 against FC Goa. With an eye on next season, East Bengal FC are in search of their second win at home this season in what will be their eighth game.
Their transfer embargo was lifted last week, which will allow the club to bring new signing Jake Jervis into the starting XI after a two-week wait to register him. East Bengal FC head coach Stephen Constantine mentioned last week about the importance of Cleiton Silva and how the club wanted to pair him up with a good attacking partner. To fulfill that need, Jervis will start.
"We have been identifying players since, I would say, October. Jake was one of those players that we wanted to get in - obviously we need help up front. It's taken a while because of the embargo and what have you, but I'm pleased that he's going to be playing tomorrow. I think this is the first time I'll have two foreign (strikers) begin a game, which was our objective from day one and I'm pleased about that. And I hope he has a good game," Constantine said.
Kerala Blasters FC bounced back from two losses in a row with a 2-0 victory over NorthEast United FC last week. Dimitrios Diamantakos bagged a brace last week and increased his goal tally of the season to nine goals in 15 games. The Greek striker is only one behind the ISL's top scorer, Iker Guarrrotxena.
Head coach Ivan Vukomanovic will be pleased to see Danish Farooq join the club from rivals Bengaluru FC. However, the 26-year-old will have to fight for a starting XI spot with Rahul KP, Sahal Samad and Bryce Miranda. Vukomanovic confirmed that injured defender Marko Leskovic would be missing what he considers a difficult game.
"I think they find themselves in a spot where they don't deserve to be. They're a strong team. If you allow this kind of team to play, to explore their quality, you will suffer. That's a fact," Vumomanovic said.
"At the end of the season, where you have to face teams where everybody is saying, ‘you know they're bottom of the table, and it will be easy' -- it's quite the opposite. It was the case last game as well against NorthEast United FC. So you must never be casual in this league. Anybody can beat anybody," he added.
East Bengal FC have never beaten Kerala Blasters in the ISL. Three out of their five encounters have ended in draws, while the Blasters have won two. Both these Blasters victories have come in the last two meetings.