ISL 2021-22: Kerala aim to get back to winning ways against NEUFC (preview)

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Kerala Blasters FC will look to get back to winning ways and continue their push for a top spot when they take on rock-bottom NorthEast United FC in the 2021-22 Indian Super League match at the Tilak Maidan Stadium, here on Friday.

A resurgent Bengaluru FC ended Kerala’s 10-game unbeaten streak with a 1-0 win in the last match. It was their second defeat of the season and head coach Ivan Vukomanovic would like to believe that it was a blip in an otherwise terrific campaign that saw them move to the top of the table for the first time since the inception of the league.

That 10-match unbeaten run was the longest by a team this season.They picked up 20 points in that run from 5 wins and 5 draws.

Kerala’s defence has been one of the key factors behind the longest unbeaten run in their history. They kept clean sheets in 5 of the 10 matches and conceded only 6 goals in those matches. Kerala conceded more than 1 goal in a game only once in their 10 games unbeaten run.

“We have to continue working hard. In the last match, we played after a long time but the boys showed a good mentality to fight. The boys have a winners’ mentality and we want our fans to know whatever game it is, we will fight for the logo and for the fans,” Vukomanovic said before the game.

“We have to be ready to compete as the league is very hard and unpredictable. We also can’t want to play in front of our home fans as I believe that will give us wings to fly,” he added.

On the other hand, NorthEast United have endured a wretched run so far, slipping to the foot of the table after SC East Bengal’s 2-2 draw against Chennaiyin FC last night. The Highlanders’ plight was summed up in their last game where they lost 0-5 to league leaders Hyderabad FC, but head coach Khalid Jamil said the heavy defeat is behind them now and the team is focusing on the next game.

“We are focusing on tomorrow’s game. We are not thinking about the heavy defeat in the last game. This is the best solution for us,” he said.

On Deshorn Brown, Jamil said: “He is fine hopefully. He practised and he is better now. He will be available for tomorrow’s game.”

Brown has not featured in the last four matches for the club and that is one of the primary reasons why they have struggled in front of goal. They have also struggled to score in open play without him. All five of their last five open play goals have been scored by Brown.

NorthEast United will be working hard on their set-piece routines as well after seeing the number of goals conceded by Kerala Blasters in open play recently.

In their last eight games, they have conceded five goals and only one has been from open play. In total, they have conceded 5 of their 11 goals from open play, the fewest by a team this season. They are also one of only 4 teams to have conceded less than 10 goals from open play in Hero ISL 21-22 so far.

Brown (11) also needs one goal to equal Bart Ogbeche’s record of 12 goals for NEUFC and become their joint top-scorer.

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