Kerala Blasters will look to get their season up and running on Friday evening when they face NorthEast United FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi. The Yellow brigade have only three points from four matches and are amongst the only two teams who haven’t won a single game this season.
They come into the tie on the back of a 5-2 thrashing at the hands of FCGoa where Ferran Corominas scored a hat-trick in seven minutes after the break.
On being questioned if those seven minutes continues to haunt his players especially in the defence, Meulensteen instead urged his players to focus on the next task at hand as opposed to wonder about what transpired in the previous match.
“It only affects if you start dwelling that. Players know when they have made the mistake. You need to accept it and move on. The players are very keen to get their first win. Apart from Berbatov, Iain Hume has resumed training this week and came through well. Wes (Brown) is improving. We have to make a call on that.
“That game wouldn't have developed that way if Berbatov had been fit, I can guarantee you. Those seven minutes will not happen again,” he assured the fans of Blasters.
Berbatov has been ruled out at least until the New Year’s eve and Meulensteen reiterated that the Bulgarian striker’s absence will haunt his team.
“It's a loss for sure. Everybody noticed that when he came off against Goa. The way that the game panned put after he left was disappointing. We have to use the squad as always. This is a case of accepting the fact that he is not there,” he mentioned.
Meulensteen highlighted that every coach in the ISL is under pressure to deliver results. He also spoke on how winning is the best thing to happen when the team is suffering from confidence issues.
"It (extra pressure) always does. Every manager in every league is under pressure. You cannot control the variables that have an effect on the results and performances. If the results and performances have been bad, then you have a problem.
“It is normal sometimes when you are desperate to win, there is a little bit of doubt. I keep reassuring the players that there are plenty of games to play for. When you are winning the confidence comes in. People talk about teamwork and team spirit. Believe me, there is only one medicine – winning,” he pointed.
The good news for Blasters is that Chekiyot Vineeth is back in contention for a start after missing out on the last game due to suspension.
“It’s very important to have Vineeth back. I thought he did extremely well against Mumbai - running in behind their defence,” he replied on the impact of Vineeth’s return to the squad.
Meulensteen was asked whether NorthEast United are heavily dependent on Danilo Lopes and Marcinho, who have a goal each to their name.
“They are very good players. They are very direct. Marcinho can find a pass. The wingers, (Halicharan) Narzary is very good. It is more than just those two. They can pose a threat. We have to make sure that we are on our guard and try to minimize their goalscoring opportunity,” he reasoned.
The former Qatar Under-18 coach believes that Thangboi Singto’s inputs on NorthEast United will be very valuable.
"Both sets of players are going to try to do well. Thangboi will be of help because he can give us an insight into different advantages we can take,” he signed off.