Kochi: When an injury-hit Kerala Blasters FC return home to host Odisha FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Friday after suffering two consecutive losses, saving points could be the most important thing on the mind of their boss Eelco Schattorie.
It will be a difficult task for Schattorie, not just because it would be uncharacteristic of him, but Blasters have different demons to fight when they take on Odisha. Schattorie has been unhappy regarding the missed pre-season and injuries since their opener against ATK, which they won 2-1 in front of the home crowd. This dream start, however, did not stop Schattorie from drawing a realistic picture then. And his worries looked spot on when the Yellow Brigade suffered a 0-1 loss to Mumbai City FC at home.
When Blasters conceded the away game 1-2 to ISL newbies Hyderabad FC in their third match, it was once again injuries and a lack of coordination that cost the side the match.
Odisha, who are ranked two rungs above the Blasters at sixth spot, are coming to Kochi after a thumping 4-2 win over Mumbai City on the road. While Blasters come into the match after giving away points at Hyderabad, Josep Gombau's Odisha will take the field fresh from their win. This factor could work on the psyche of the players.
Schattorie is riding a front-loaded wagon – an attacking front in the form of Bartholomew Ogbeche supported well by a young and fast midfield but the struggling defence has been slowing them down – that needs a serious balancing. The perfect mix is still a mystery to the Dutchman, thanks to the nagging injuries.
For Gombau, on the other hand, things seem to have fallen in place with the win over Mumbai City. Going to that match the Spaniard's side had tasted defeats at the hands of NorthEast United FC and Jamshedpur FC by an identical 1-2 scoreline.
The season is still at the early stages and Schattorie has time to find a combination that would take his side into the play-offs. The question would be, will he be able to keep the side motivated till then.
Take off the results, injuries, and lack of coordination, Blasters have so far put up a spirited show on the field. Losses would weigh more and become demoralising for those who have played their heart out, and Schattorie might want to reduce the damage with a draw ahead of the break for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Odisha's Aridane Santana, Xisco Hernández, and Jerry Mawihmingthanga are in fine form. Blasters, with chinks in their defence, will have a tough time to hold the trio silent.
Blasters would want Ogbeche to strike early. One goal up, Blasters in front of their 12th man, Manjappada, could make any side sweat. Youngsters Sahal Abdul Samad, K Prasanth, and K P Rahul started against Hyderbad and would be raring to go on home soil.