Opponent Watch - Kerala Blasters
10 points separate Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC at the moment as they meet tonight in an all-important clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi. The first leg between these sides this season ended with two goals a piece for each team as the Blasters mounted a second half comeback from 2 - 0 down to win back a point.
A similar character will be needed from David James' men tonight if they are to achieve a positive result against Jamshedpur FC. The visitors come into this game after a goalless draw against North East United and need a strong performance to take them back to the second spot in the table with a win.
In their way tonight, stand Kerala Blasters who have not won a game since their opening match against ATK and a team that has not won at home this season. Mathematically, Kerala Blasters can still make it to the playoffs but their form and tactics so far suggest otherwise. With just 8 points from 9 matches in the bag, the Blasters have massively underperformed. This is also the Blasters' worst ever run in their history (8 games without a win).
The biggest worry for Kerala this season has been their inability to hold onto their lead and see out games safely. The Blasters have lost seven points from winning positions this season, most recently being the stoppage time comeback from North East United against them.
Another issue that has plagued Kerala Blasters this season has been the constant chopping and changing done by the management. David James has changed his playing XI quite frequently and it can be argued that the manager has still not found on his best starting eleven. The decision to drop Sandesh Jhingan and CK Vineeth to the bench in their last game was a gutsy call which unfortunately for them, did not bore fruit.
But the Blasters are expected to field both Jhingan and Vineeth tonight and one can expect a tough fight from the Kochi side against the Men of Steel. Nikola Krcmarevic has been one of the most consistent performers for the Blasters this season and Jamshedpur FC will have to be wary of the Serbian's prowess to disrupt play and help his side to transition as fast as possible.
Judging on their current form, Kerala Blasters will find it tough to handle Jamshedpur FC's attacking unit that has scored in all games bar one this season. Their defence also showed some signs of improvement in the draw against the Highlanders which saw them register their second clean sheet of the season.
All in all, tonight's clash puts Jamshedpur FC as the favourites but one can never discount the Blasters who have several match winners in their squad.