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Football: Rejuvenated East Bengal take on tentative Kerala Blasters
Vasco da Gama (Goa), January 14, 2021
East Bengal, on the back of a consistent string of results over the past three games, face Kerala Blasters in their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) fixture at the Tilak Maidan Stadium here on Friday.
A lot has changed since the two met in December. In that game, EB were eventually held to a 1-1 draw after Kerala scored in injury time but since then, they have been on an upward curve.
Robbie Fowler's side are unbeaten in their last five games, securing two wins on the way. And despite being ninth on the table, they find themselves just five points away from a playoff spot.
Their current run of form pleases Fowler but he knows EB still have a lot to fight for as they look to remain in contention for the playoffs.
"Of course, we are not getting carried away," he said. "We are on a good little run and when people were quick to criticise us, we weren't getting carried away and likewise. We know there's plenty of hard work that we will be continuing to do. We look a more confident team and a settled team. We are in a good space but we need to keep growing and do what we are doing. So far, it has progressed more than the way we wanted at the start."
One major positive that EB have witnessed during their unbeaten streak has been their attack. The Kolkata giants have been creating chances and found a way to score goals, an area they struggled at the start of the season.
The addition of young Bright Enobakhare has bolstered their forward line with the Nigerian contributing two goals from three games. The midfield has also stepped up, providing 7 of their 10 goals this season – contributing more than any other midfield.
This will come as a major boost against a Kerala side that has shipped the most goals this season (19) and just kept one clean sheet. But similar to EB, Kerala's attack has also been in form, scoring 13 goals – only Mumbai City and Hyderabad have netted more.
Eight different goal scorers have been involved for Kibu Vicuna's side – the joint-most by a team. But Kerala's struggling defence is not an issue for Vicuna as long as his side is scoring more goals.
"The most important thing is not about conceding but scoring more than the opponent," Vicuna said. "If you score more than you concede, the morale is automatically high. We are working on that. The important thing right now is that the last few matches we have been creating chances. We have to continue this with balance and limit opponents to lesser chances and (ensure) that they don't score."