NorthEast United FC players practise before the match of the Indian Super League (ISL)

The future of Kerala Blasters FC and NorthEast United FC in this edition of Hero Indian Super League will depend on the 90 minutes at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi today.

Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United are battling for the last play-off spot and will know their future at the end of 90 minutes on Sunday. Kerala Blasters need only a draw to qualify for the semi-finals and should be at an advantage since they are playing at home where they have won four matches in a row.

“We just play. I don’t know how to play for a draw. We will play to try and win the game. As the game develops, obviously people make decisions. The coaches will try and change (approach). As the game develops, the consequences will become apparent but certainly at the start, we are going in to win, trying to win. That’s the only way we can approach,” said Kerala Blasters manager Steve Coppell during the pre-match media interaction.

Kerala Blasters have been strong at home winning four matches in a row while their away performance has been patchy. The coach admitted they had their “pants taken off” against Mumbai City FC – when they lost 0-5 – but they can find comfort in home surroundings, especially at a time when Kochi has been awarded the right to host final of ISL 2016.

“I think it’s the best atmosphere at any of the ground we have played. There is the biggest crowd, the best atmosphere. It’s a wise decision by the league to select Kochi. Kerala loves football, the people love their football and whether we are in the final or not, I am sure the people here will embrace the final and make it a great spectacle for everyone watching,” said Coppell.

If Kerala Blasters are entertaining any hopes of playing the final at home even with midfielder Mehtab Hossain suspended, they must stop NorthEast United FC. The Highlanders have never made it to the knock-out stage and will be equally determined to qualify for the first time in three attempts.

“I am sure tomorrow we will have a fantastic atmosphere. It’s hard for one of the team who will be out but this is the best side of football. You can say we played enough quality football to be already qualified. (But) Football is not only performance, it’s about results. Tomorrow we will be here for one thing: result, and as you know, performance is forgotten and result remains forever. I hope we can have a great game,” said NorthEast coach Nelo Vingada.

Vingada is aware that Kerala Blasters will be at an added advantage because they will be backed by a crowd of approximately 55,000 for the “final of a World Cup for both teams.” But the Portuguese coach fancies his team’s chances.

“Kerala has an advantage with 50,000 to 55,000 fans supporting them but that will not be enough. Who can win the game are the players inside the field. I know it will be hard for us because we must win but we are here to win,” said Vingada.

Interestingly, the two teams were the first to play each other this season as ISL 2016 kicked off from Guwahati on October 1 with NorthEast United scoring a solitary goal victory at home.

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