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ISL 2022-23: Kerala Blasters aim to solidify playoff standing as East Bengal FC look to gain positives

A win will be crucial at this juncture for the Kerala Blasters to be confident in the playoff spots, while the Torch Bearers are out of contention for the same.

football ISL 2022-23: Kerala Blasters aim to solidify playoff standing as East Bengal FC look to gain positives snt
First Published Feb 3, 2023, 8:00 AM IST

Kerala Blasters will have the opportunity to establish a four-point cushion over ATK Mohun Bagan in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) if they capture all three points against East Bengal FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Friday. A win will be crucial for the Blasters to be confident in the playoff spots while the Torch Bearers are out of contention.

Currently ninth in the standings, East Bengal FC is ten points outside the last playoff berth. The Torch Bearers lost 4-2 against FC Goa last week despite scoring twice in the second half. 

East Bengal FC will play their ninth game here in search of their second home victory of the season as they look ahead to the upcoming campaign.

After a two-week wait to register him, their transfer ban was removed last week, enabling the team to insert recent acquisition Jake Jervis into the starting XI. Last week, head coach Stephen Constantine spoke about Cleiton Silva's significance and the club's desire to combine him with a strong attacking partner. Jervis will start by addressing that demand.

"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 defeated NorthEast United FC 2-0 last Thursday to snap a two-match losing streak. Dimitrios Diamantakos scored twice last week to bring his season total of goals to nine in 15 games. The Hero ISL's top scorer, Iker Guarrrotxena, and the Greek striker are separated by just one goal.

Ivan Vukomanovic, the club's head coach, will be happy to welcome Danish Farooq from Bengaluru FC, a rival. The 26-year-old will, however, have to compete with Rahul KP, Sahal Samad, and Bryce Miranda for a spot in the starting XI. A challenging encounter, in Vukomanovic's opinion, would be missed by injured defender Marko Leskovic.

“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 Hero 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.

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