AFC Cup 2023-24: What Mohun Bagan SG and Odisha FC need to qualify?
Anything less than three points will jeopardize the qualification hopes of Mohun Bagan SG and Odisha FC.
Mohun Bagan Super Giant and Odisha FC are set to face off in a crucial match, marking the fifth encounter of the AFC Cup 2023-24 group stage at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium in Kolkata on Monday.
The Mariners come into this game following a defeat against Bashundhara Kings in their previous match, while Odisha FC enter with two consecutive victories. Both Indian Super League (ISL) sides are eager to maintain their qualification hopes, eyeing three crucial points from this fixture. The Mariners commenced the tournament with a flourish, clinching back-to-back victories against 10-man Odisha FC (4-0) and Maziya S&RC (2-1). However, they suffered a setback as they settled for a 2-2 draw against Bashundhara Kings in Kolkata and faced their first defeat in a challenging away match against the Kings (1-2) in Bangladesh.
In contrast, Odisha FC have been gradually finding their rhythm under the guidance of their new head coach, Sergio Lobera. Despite two initial defeats against Mohun Bagan Super Giant (0-4) and Bashundhara Kings (2-3), they made a remarkable comeback with convincing wins over Maziya S&RC, defeating them 6-1 at home and securing a thrilling 3-2 comeback victory in the Maldives.
As it stands, both Bashundhara Kings and Mohun Bagan Super Giant are tied on seven points from four matches, with the Mariners slipping to the second position in the group due to a head-to-head result with the Kings. Odisha FC sits third in the table with six points from four matches while Maziya S&RC is at the bottom of the table with three points.
The match holds a lot of significance for both teams. Despite the Mariners enjoying the comforts of home turf, fervent fan support, and the psychological advantage of the previous victory in the reverse fixture, they cannot be complacent. Mohun Bagan Super Giant, having been knocked out in the Inter-Zone Playoff Semi-finals in their previous two attempts, have entered this campaign with a genuine desire to excel in the AFC Cup. Their commitment to building a formidable team has been evident through strategic signings and that indicates a determined effort to challenge heavyweight contenders in the tournament.
“It will be an important match as both the teams have the opportunity to be in the next round. So, it is going to be a tough match. They have very good players, but our target is to win the match and better our chances,” Mohun Bagan SG head coach Juan Ferrando said in the pre-match press conference.
On the other hand, Odisha FC are fueled by a desire for redemption following a significant defeat at the hands of the Mariners in the reverse fixture. Making their debut in the continental competition this season, the Juggernauts have bolstered their squad with impactful signings and secured the services of the experienced Sergio Lobera as the head coach. Odisha FC have showcased resilience by turning the tide in the AFC Cup and the ISL, securing victories in all three of their recent matches, including two instances where they overcame two-goal deficits. This remarkable comeback streak has undoubtedly boosted their morale, setting the stage for an enthralling clash.
In essence, the match promises to be a riveting encounter, with both teams having the potential to make a mark in the AFC Cup. With only one team progressing from the group stage, the significance of this penultimate match has heightened.
Here's how they can qualify for the Inter-Zone Playoff Semi-finals
What Mohun Bagan Super Giant need: The Mariners' fate is no longer in their own hands after the defeat to Bashundhara Kings in their last match as the Bangladeshi outfit has the edge thanks to a superior head-to-head record. However, Mohun Bagan SG are still very much in contention to qualify for the next stage. They need to better the results of the Kings in their final two matches. The best chance of achieving that would be by winning both their games and hoping the Kings slip up against either Maziya or Odisha FC.
What Odisha FC need: Unlike the Mariners, the Kalinga Warriors have their fate very much in their own hands despite having fewer points on the board. If Lobera's men win their remaining matches, they will qualify for the Inter-Zone Playoff Semi-Finals. This is because Odisha FC play their two direct rivals in the final two matches. Even though it sounds straightforward, the Kalinga Warriors will have to be at their absolute best to pull this off.
Lobera's side can also advance with three of four points from their remaining two matches, if other results go their way.