Kochi: A beleaguered Kerala Blasters run into red-hot FC Pune City in their ISL clash here on Thursday. Blasters parted ways with Dutch coach Rene Meulensteen after they suffered a 1-3 defeat at the hands of Bengaluru FC in their previous game.
Blasters are struggling in eighth spot in the 10-team competition with a mere seven points from as many matches.
New coach David James is expected to be in charge of the Kochi-based franchise for the game against Pune. This will be Blasters' sixth home game and they will have to pick up at least a point from this fixture. Three away games in the space of one week await Blasters after the Pune encounter.
Pune are sitting pretty with 15 points from eight matches and they thrashed NorthEast United 5-0 in their last match. Brazilian striker Marcelinho, who scored a hat-trick against the Highlanders, and his Uruguayan strike partner Emiliano Alfaro are likely to run riot.
Blasters' Serbian defender Nemanja Lakic-Pesic will miss the game with a suspension. If the Blasters' backline struggled to contain BCF strikers Sunil Chhetri and Miku, they could be in for more trouble against Marcelinho and Alfaro.
It will be interesting to see whether C K Vineeth, whose absence against BFC led to plenty of speculation, returns to the Blasters line-up. Iain Hume played his heart out against BFC and should start the match.
Area of concern
Blasters have struggled to keep pace with their opponents halfway past the second period of play. They allowed Mumbai City FC to score an equalizer late into the second half, were lucky not to concede an equalizer against NorthEast, and were caught napping against BFC in injury time.
This has been a season of disappointment for Blasters fans so far. Many fear that a repeat of ISL Season 2, in which Blasters finished rock bottom, is in store.
Good sides show character when the going gets tough and it's up to the Blasters players to raise their game. But it's easier said than done against a quality outfit such as Pune.