Kerala Blasters vs Punjab FC: Injured stars remain Ivan Vukomanovic's top concern

Kerala Blasters
Kerala Blasters players during the practice at Kochi on Sunday. Photo: ISL

When the Kerala Blasters FC take on the Punjab FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Monday at Kochi, host's head coach Ivan Vukomanovic faces a double challenge: fierce opponents and a growing medical bay. Despite not being able to field their ace team, the Kerala side has secured an impressive 8 wins in 13 games, with only 3 losses. However, the once table toppers are now placed third under Odisha FC and Goa FC.

"Every game feels like a giant puzzle," Ivan Vukomanovic said after the Odisha loss. "We have to piece it together all over again, with each match presenting a different picture!"
This season, the Blasters haven't had the full squad available even once. Injuries have sidelined superstars like Adrian Luna and Kwame Peprah, along with promising youngsters Vibi Mohan and Jeakson Singh. The absence of key players not only affects the team's combination on the field but also the ability to finish. With a goal difference of 6, Blasters has the lowest goal difference among the top 5 teams.

Punjab FC players during the practice at Kochi on Sunday. Photo: ISL

While their playoff spot isn't under immediate threat, losses can chip away at their confidence. Coach Ivan laments that wins against Mumbai City FC, ATK Mohun Bagan, and Odisha would have been a huge morale boost.
But the Blasters are known for their fighting spirit, especially in front of the home crowd. Can they overcome these injuries and emerge victorious against Punjab FC? The Kochi crowd will be roaring them on, hoping to see their heroes script a comeback.
Meanwhile, visitors Punjab are coming for the match with a thumping 3-1 win against Bengaluru FC. Riding high on that home win, they could create problems for the Blasters.

Key Players:
Pritam Kotal (Kerala Blasters FC)
Pritam Kotal has been instrumental in Blaster's defence with four clean sheets, 12 tackles, 22 clearances, and 27 interceptions. Kotal has become a defensive leader for the team. Against Punjab FC, he'll be crucial in maintaining the defensive structure.
Madih Talal (Punjab FC)
Madih Talal poses a significant threat to opponents with his ability to both create and score goals. With two goals and three assists in ISL 2023-24, Talal's influence has been growing. Talal's dynamic presence in the frontline, marked by his vision and sharp deliveries, will be closely watched in the upcoming match in Kochi.

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