Kochi: David James has replaced Rene Meulensteen as the Kerala Blasters head coach and he will begin his second stint with the Kochi-based side against a high-flying Pune City at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
The former England goalkeeper, who was the Blasters’ marquee player-manager in the first season when they made it to the final, checked into the city on Tuesday night and was present at the team’s training on Wednesday.
However, it is still too early for the former Liverpool player to prepare a game-plan for the visit of Pune who are second in standings and in sublime form with seven goals scored in their last two matches. Assistant coach Thangboi Singto, who conducted the team training on the eve of the match, on Wednesday, said he expects a positive response from his players. “The plan has always been to do well,” he said, refusing to comment on the departure of Meulensteen. Singto also rubbished rumours about an alleged drop in commitment of Dimitar Berbatov following Meulensteen’s exit as the former Manchester United coach was the sole reason the Bulgarian made the ISL move.
Berbatov is fit to play while C.K. Vineeth and Rino Anto remain sidelined.
Pune head coach Ranko Popovic remains suspended for his rant against refereeing in the league.
The visitors have a perfect away record, winning all three of their previous games and are hoping to continue their fine form.
Meanwhile, a Navy fighter jet crash at the Dabolim airport in Goa forced FC Goa’s match against ATK in Kolkata to be delayed. The runway was closed for operations for a brief period, forcing a delay in Goa team’s departure.