Kochi: Three points will be the top priority for struggling Kerala Blasters when they take on FC Goa in an Indian Super League match here on Sunday.
Kerala head coach Eelco Schattorie will hope to put an end to his team's woes on the field. The Yellow Army are winless in four games and their only victory this season came against ATK on the opening day.
Schattorie has also lost several key players to injury, especially in defence.
Midfielder Mario Arques is yet to start a match for Kerala Blasters since arriving here and has only recently returned to training following an injury layoff.
Sandesh Jhingan and Jairo Rodriguez had to be replaced due to injuries and the latter's replacement, Macedonian Vlatko Drobarov, remains an unknown quantity to the Kerala Blasters faithful.
Upfront, Bartholomew Ogbeche's brace against ATK remained his only contribution to the score sheet, and having gone goalless for four games, the former NorthEast United striker will expect an improved supply from midfield to come up with more goals.
Sergio Cidoncha is also another player who will be expected to step up and deliver if Kerala Blasters are to create more chances in the attacking third.
"Not much has changed regarding injuries. I saw the interview of FC Goa coach saying that we have a team that can play for the title. I don't agree with him. At this stage, we're still getting to the level that we're trying to get to. We're still in the survival mode," said Schattorie.
Sergio Lobera's FC Goa have not hit peak form yet and have just one clean sheet so far, and it came against Chennayin FC in their first game of the season. They have not been able to find the right balance due to a mix of injuries and suspensions and lack a heavy punch without Ferran Corominas leading the line.
The current form and previous meetings between these two teams will please Lobera. FC Goa have won seven of the 10 meetings between the two teams and have scored a whopping 25 goals. Last season, Goa defeated Kerala Blasters 3-0 at home and 3-1 in Kochi and both were dominant victories.
Lobera praised the atmosphere at Kochi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and hopes that fan groups also recreate similar ambience in their home stadiums.
"It is amazing to play in Kerala. I think all professionals want to play every match in such a beautiful atmosphere. Players get motivated to play in this situation. I want to play every match in this kind of atmosphere," he said.
While FC Goa's defensive frailties and absence of suspended Ahmed Jahouh, Hugo Boumus and Seimenlen Doungel could allow Kerala Blasters to control the midfield better, the real challenge will be for the hosts' depleted defence to stand firm against the visiting side's red-hot attack that has scored 10 goals from five matches this season.