FC Pune City will be without the services of Ranko Popovic on the touchline when they face Kerala Blasters as he serves the second of his four-match suspension. Incidentally, the hosts too will be without their head coach Rene Meulensteen who was sacked only 48 hours before the kick-off following a poor run of results this season.
Vladica Grujic, who serves as the assistant coach of FC Pune City, empathized with Meulensteen after he was shown the door.
“I don't know what happened. This is the life of coaches. You don't have time to lose too much because people want to win.
“We concentrate on our team. Every change provokes some reaction. I hope we can repeat our good performance,” said Grujic.
The 55-year-old expects Blasters to play long ball towards their strikers. He also refused to take their opponents lightly given that they managed to pick a point against league leaders Chennaiyin FC.
“Every game is difficult. We want to concentrate and think about our players. We know how strong Kerala is. One example is game against Chennaiyin in Chennai. Tomorrow (Thursday), I expect Kerala to play a little bit of long ball and then win the second balls.
“I don’t know too much about Indian players. But I am sure they have the players who can give 100 per cent. I expect a really strong opponent,” he mentioned.
The Serbian pointed that Popovic has prepared the team in the manner that they wouldn’t miss him on the touchline.
“We are working every day. Day-by-day, the team is getting better and better. I think this team, during the game, don’t need the coach (thanks to the preparation). We want to play a strong game tomorrow (Thursday). Popovic is very important for the team,” he said.
Vishal Kaith has been impressive in between the sticks in the last three matches or so and Grujic expects another top display from the former Shillong Lajong custodian.
“In Vishal and Kamal (Kamaljit Singh), we have two very good goalkeepers. Of course, it is very important to have a good goalie like Vishal. We expect good performances not just from Vishal. We are coming here to win,” said the former Buriram United assistant coach.
Ashique Kuruniyan scored an important goal against NorthEast United FC and the 20-year-old from Malappuram drew praise from Grujic.
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“Ashique was injured and now he is coming back. He is a very strong player. His mentality is also very strong,” he pointed.
Grujic also shared that Baljit Sahni remains unavailable due to an injury while Isaac Vanmalsawma is also recovering from the knock sustained last month.