KOCHI: The excitement among fans in Kerala is unbelievable and has reached the highest point as Kerala Blasters seek to ride on massive home support and a fantastic six-match winning record in the Indian Super League final against Atletico de Kolkata at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, on Sunday.
Kerala Blasters have won a record six matches in a row at their home ground and know that a passionate home crowd would be the proverbial 12th man for them. They have also managed to keep a clean sheet in half of their home matches, conceding just four goals at home but manager Steve Coppell knows they cannot afford to take anything for granted.
“It will obviously be a comfortable atmosphere for us because it’s our home crowd but the crowd don’t play. They give us huge support. Whoever wins tomorrow needs to earn the trophy by playing well. I am sure both sides have that intention going into the game. The crowd is nothing more than a great background for us to play against but it won’t give us a goal-start or stop goals going in,” said Coppell.
Coppell would have surely known results in the past, particularly last season when FC Goa played the final at home but lost against Chennaiyin FC. The final showdown also provides Kerala Blasters with a chance to avenge defeat from the first season when Atletico de Kolkata pipped them at the post for the inaugural title.
“I think it’s just neutral. It’s a game. Once the match kicks-off, it doesn’t really matter what happens outside (in the stands),” said Coppell.
The massive stadium in Kochi is not alien to Atletico de Kolkata. They are a rare team to walk away with a victory from Kochi when Javier Lara grabbed a second-half winner and marquee player Helder Postiga, who is accustomed to such atmospheres, expects the crowd to make it difficult for the away team.
“I expect a big atmosphere tomorrow. It’s one of the best atmosphere in ISL. When we played here, we saw how difficult Kerala can be a difficult team,” said Postiga.
Atletico de Kolkata have been the more consistent teams in ISL losing just two games. Even in the second-leg semi-final against Mumbai City FC, coach Jose Molina made nine changes and still managed to wriggle past their opponents, possibly keeping players fresh for the grand finale.
“I don’t know whether we are the most consistent. It’s true we only lost two matches but I have respect for all teams. Kerala have had a great season but we will try to win. We want the trophy,” said Molina.
Atletico de Kolkata have won just one of their four knock-out matches away from Kolkata, which was the final in ISL 2014, against Kerala Blasters in Mumbai. They will hope for a repeat in front of massive support for the home team on Sunday.