Gokulam Kerala FC head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese feels the club would be keen on defending their Durand Cup title this year. The 36-year-old Italian gaffer aims for a perfect 100% record in the competition.
Last season, the Malabarians defeated Mohun Bagan 2-1 in an epic final in the third oldest competition in the world. Additionally, they became the first club from Kerala to lift the I-League trophy.
However, they have to go through a tougher group stage as compared to the previous edition. Indian Super League club Hyderabad FC would be their first major opponent in the group stages.
Can Annese successfully defend the Durand Cup title with a new-look Gokulam Kerala FC?
Gokulam Kerala became the first club from Kerala to represent India in the continental competitions. The Malabarians would participate in next year’s AFC Cup and now, would be focusing on defending their titles. In the last edition, they overcame teams like TRAU FC, Chennaiyin FC and Indian Air Force to reach the semifinal and then the final.
Speaking in the ‘Durand Talks’ conducted by Durand Cup organizers, Annese was keen on achieving the targets put ahead of him. About the form of preparation the tournament offers, he said,
“We start the season with Durand, which will be good preparation for the I-League campaign. It will provide a good opportunity to establish good chemistry between our players”, he said during the show.”
Gokulam began their pre-season preparations as early as 2nd August and is now playing friendlies against various local teams in Kerala. About those friendlies and the pre-season preparations, Annese said,
“There is a lot of talent over here in Kerala, it also gives us an opportunity to watch other players, and also to help us field a good team tactically in preparation for the season.”
Amidst tough times such as lockdowns during the COVID pandemic, the club took utmost attention of physical and mental fitness through different ‘virtual trainings’. About maintaining proper fitness, he says,
“First of all, it is important to reach a good physical condition. In this kind of preparation, it is important to not get injured. Tactical aspects are secondary in that regard. For now, everything is going well.”
The Kerala club would be facing some of the tougher opponents in Group D. However, the Italian mastermind believes that he will win the trophy for them again!
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