Kochi: Head coach Steve Coppell will return to his old stomping ground when he leads Jamshedpur FC against his former club Kerala Blasters FC here on Friday. The Englishman took the Blasters to the final last season and is part of the Yellow Army folklore.
“I’m very happy to be in Kochi and see some of my old players, to see the fans and the stadium. It brings back a lot of happy memories for me from last season. The reception I’ve had so far on the streets is lovely and it’s nice to be remembered. But it’s a new season and I’m here to do a job for someone else. That’s what happens in football,” the former Manchester United winger said, praising the intense atmosphere that Kerala’s fans produce at home.
Apart from some returning players, Coppell’s assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed will also pit his brains against his former team. Ahmed played for the Kerala Blasters before joining Jamshedpur’s technical staff. Coppell said that there wouldn’t be any attempt from his team to find a point from the match. “We’re going for the win,” he said, as Jamshedpur go into their second away match in a row. Both teams played out 0-0 draws in their opening games of the season.
Kerala Blasters head coach Rene Meulensteen faced a frustrating evening on opening day against Atletico de Kolkata. His side took 10 shots but hit the target only five times, and he admitted that work was done to improve the final product while attacking.
“I know Steve [Coppell] and I expect his team to be very difficult to beat. It will be direct and they can catch you unaware. He will have the team well organised, hardworking and hard to break down. So we need to show a lot of quality, be alert and produce a high level of energy,” the Dutchman said.
The teams will have shirked off the anxiety of the first game, and will slowly gel over a few games, both head coaches said.
He also hinted that Dimitar Berbatov could play in the hole behind the striker, a position from where he had the most influence in the previous game after he started it as a lone striker and was left begging for better service.
“We have to maximise the quality we have and we try out different options to do that. I have players who can play in different positions and this helps me rotate them on the frontline. It also gives us some unpredictability up front,” he said. The participation of former Manchester United defender Wes Brown will be touch and go as well.
Coppell insisted that there wasn’t enough football played in the season to judge the character of teams and how they would play, but Friday’s game will certainly see enough players on the pitch – like Berbatov – who can change the game in the blink of an eye.
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