Kerala Blasters FC will have the opportunity to establish a four-point cushion over ATK Mohun Bagan in the Indian Super League (ISL), if they get all three points against the other Kolkata giant, East Bengal FC, at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Friday.
A win will be crucial at this juncture for the Blasters to be confident of the playoff spots. After 15 rounds, the Blasters are third in the points table with 28 points, just one better than fourth-placed ATK Mohun Bagan.
Meanwhile, East Bengal are ninth in the table and ten points shy of the final playoff spot. Last week, the Kolkata side lost 2-4 to FC Goa while the Blasters put an end to a two-match losing streak with a 2-0 win over NEUFC. East Bengal are in search of their second win at home this season in what will be their eighth game.
East Bengal have never beaten the Blasters in the ISL with three out of their five encounters have ending in draws and the side from Kerala winning the other two.
The Blasters will rely on striker Dimitrios Diamantakos, who 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.