Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], December 6 (ANI): Mohun Bagan Super Giant has created history by recording the best-ever start (after five matches) to an Indian Super League (ISL) season with five successive victories in this campaign. However, manager Sergio Lobera’s Odisha FC will bring with them fresh memories of a forgettable 5-2 loss that Juan Ferrando’s team faced against them at this venue in their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup encounter last week.
That result was a massive aberration in what otherwise has been an impeccable season for Mohun Bagan Super Giant so far. Powered by a strong squad comprising several India internationals, Ferrando has a prospective title-winning unit at his disposal. What can fuel the fire for his men is a much-needed response against Odisha FC, a team that does not look like putting a foot wrong anytime soon.
With proven ISL winners, promising young talents and the tactical nous of Lobera with them, Odisha FC is gradually emerging as one of the sides to keep close tabs on this year. They have tremendous offensive quality to trouble the opponents on their day, but the Juggernauts layer it with smart manoeuvring on both ends of the pitch to sneak in timely wins whenever needed as well.
For instance, Lobera started Roy Krishna over Diego Mauricio, who thrives playing against Jamshedpur FC, in their last fixture against the Red Miners. The result? Krishna scored the 56th-minute winner to get Odisha FC the three points.
*What’s at stake?
Mohun Bagan Super Giant
The Mariners have assembled a star-studded squad with high ambitions on both the domestic and continental fronts. Whilst the latter might be a challenging affair, they would not want to slip up in the former at any cost. Ferrando insisted that he wanted a formidable fightback from his boys against Hyderabad FC over the weekend after a dismal defeat to Odisha FC.
However, what would really get this squad going and reinvigorate their spirits is a sense of urgency and ruthlessness when they square off against the Juggernauts. There is undoubted quality within their playing XI and on the bench to triumph over Odisha, but the home side will be eyeing a statement victory more than anything else on Wednesday.
The Juggernauts are on a winning juggernaut at the moment, with five straight wins including three in the ISL and two in the AFC Cup. Lobera has his men who have tasted ISL success before, like Ahmed Jahouh, Krishna, Amrinder Singh, Mourtada Fall, etc, and blending them with some incredible emerging prospects has resulted in the team finding the perfect balance to overcome obstacles coming their way.
The AFC Cup win against the Mariners handed them the impetus that can propel the campaign to greater heights, and Lobera will be eager to double upon that to clarify that Odisha FC is one of the contenders for the top prizes this season. A win from here will take them just a point behind the second-placed Kerala Blasters (17), that too with a game in hand as compared to the Tuskers.
Anirudh Thapa (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)
The star midfielder is undergoing a gradual initiation into the Mariners’ setup. He has clocked 360 minutes across four appearances in the league and his duties so far have largely been limited to the defensive end along with setting the tempo with consistent passes and moving the ball up through the centre.
Lobera’s philosophy stresses on outplaying the opposition in the middle of the park and Thapa will have to be at the top of his game to stop that from happening again. A reliable customer shielding the backline, it will be interesting to see if Ferrando asks him to participate in a greater capacity in the offensive side of things to optimise his ability to pull off a goal-scoring opportunity out of nowhere, something that he tends to do occasionally.
Carlos Delgado (Odisha FC)
The 33-year-old centre-back has been a thorough professional at the back for Odisha FC, doing his defensive duties diligently and pairing up perfectly first with Mourtada Fall and now with Narender Gahlot. He has been averaging 40 passes per game at 87 per cent accuracy and with 3.28 clearances on an average to his name in every match.
Carlos Delgado will come up against a Mohun Bagan Super Giant frontline that is lethal when on song. They create chances aplenty and convert them consistently to make sure that the opposition is wiped out of the game. Delgado will have a major task up his sleeves, to not only carry out his responsibilities perfectly but also be the leader that the entire backline looks up to at any point of concern.
Played – 9
Mohun Bagan Super Giant – 5
Odisha FC – 1
Draws – 3
“It is not necessary to change a lot of things. In my mind the system is the same, it is to put the goals, find spaces, etc. It is an important match, of course, but I do not think we need to change a lot of things,” Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Juan Ferrando stressed on maintaining consistency in their playing approach ahead of the fixture against Odisha FC as quoted by an ISL press release.
“We are happy about the results that we have got in the last few games. But, we need to focus on the present. We are in a good moment. The team is working very well. We are growing every day, ready to improve some things obviously, especially to try to find the balance between attack and defence. The team was better in the last game but we are going to play against a very good team. They are the favourites to win the league because they have a very strong team. But we are ready. We showed everyone that we are ready for a big challenge and this is one of them,” Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera said in the pre-match press conference. (ANI)