BY NISANTH V EASWAR Follow @Niktheblue94 on Twitter
Kerala Blasters head coach Rene Meulensteen revealed that he has no injury concerns ahead of Friday's Indian Super League (ISL) opener against ATK in Kochi. However, he admitted that the players are still a few weeks away from achieving excellent physical condition.
"We are maybe three-to-four weeks away from hitting top fitness. Everybody is fit, everybody is available to play. I can basically pick anybody to play."
Meulensteen repeated the age-old 'defence-first' philosophy and rightfully so, considering the attacking arsenal available to rivals ATK.
"The game is decided in both boxes. Not conceding is very important."
Blasters travelled to Spain for their pre-season training. The coach said that the players have steadily improved their physical condition.
"I am very pleased with how the pre-season went in Spain. We have been very cautious, especially in the early part of the pre-season. The fitness levels have increased but we are not there yet." admitted Meulensteen, who is all set for his first match in-charge as the head coach of the Kerala-based club."I have been very impressed with the discipline and responsibility of the players. The willingness to work and the ability to adapt."
The former Manchester United coach also touched upon the club's large fan base, revealing that he already knew about the club and the fans before he was approached by the management in the summer.
"What pleased when Kerala approached me, I already knew about the ISL and the various clubs, especially Kerala. The number of fanatic fans!"
New recruits Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown have already know the gaffer from their stint at Manchester United.
"They know me, they know what sort of style I'd like to play. They know what it's like to be in a top professional environment. Obviously, we want them to be the extra factor on the pitch."
"I hope so [we can be incisive in attacking third]. With Internet and TV, everyone can watch and study."
"I say this to Indian players. In the position that you play, who is the player you like the most. They don't take touches that you don't need. Go to YouTube and try to copy them," advised Meulensteen.
The only concern for Kerala Blasters ahead of the opening game is the fact that some of the Indian players only just returned from international duty.
"It is a shame that we haven't had them [international players on duty] but it was an important game for Stephen Constantine. He has done a fantastic job for Indian football."
"Sandesh [Jhingan] is a fit lad, he is strong. No problems. they will join us today," Rene signed off.