The 2023-24 season for Odisha FC began with a bang as the club appointed the high-profile Sergio Lobera, followed by some star signings like Mourtada Fall, Ahmed Jahouh, and Roy Krishna. The mood at the start of the campaign was buoyant, with the club about to make their first appearance in the continental competition. 

However, their start to the AFC Cup was a little disappointing, with back-to-back defeats and their beginning in the Indian Super League (ISL) wasn't good either, with just four points secured from their opening four league matches. 

But by that time, Sergio Lobera was getting to know his players, and soon he started extracting the best from them. Odisha FC then went unbeaten in their next 13 league games and won four in a row in the AFC Cup to progress to the next round ahead of Mohun Bagan Super Giant. 

Read: Odisha FC vs Kerala Blasters FC Preview

Read: Detailed Look at Kerala Blasters FC

Playing on their home turf in the Kalinga Super Cup, the defending champions had a terrific campaign but were undone by East Bengal FC in the final. Odisha FC became the first side to secure a playoff berth this season, but a shocking defeat to Chennaiyin FC followed by a draw with Bengaluru FC dashed their League Shield hopes. 

The Kalinga Warriors saw their AFC Cup journey come to an end at the hands of Central Coast Mariners in the Inter-Zone semi-final. 

Now, heading into the playoffs, Odisha FC and Lobera will be desperate to continue and even improve upon their performance to navigate the knockout hurdles and get their hands on the ISL Cup.

Key stats in ISL 2023-24 season

Matches: 22, Wins: 11, Draws: 6, Losses: 5, Goals Scored: 35, Goals Conceded: 23, Points: 39, League Standings: 4th

Tactical Profile

The Spaniard wasted little time in finding the right formula and has been seen implementing his preferred 4-3-3 attacking formation with Roy Krishna and Diego Mauricio, swapping positions between wings and the number 9 role when they've been fielded together.

Read: Odisha FC Pre-Match Press Conference

Lobera, well-known for his attacking-minded approach, has given full freedom to both of his full-backs, Amey Ranawade and Jerry Lalrinzuala, and both of them have been seen rediscovering their form this season. Ranawade, in particular, has been very impressive under his familiar head coach and has notched up six assists and a goal.

Strengths

Set-Pieces

With Ahmed Jahouh as the primary option for set-piece routines, the Kalinga Warriors pose a significant threat during dead ball situations. The partnership between Mourtada Fall and Ahmed Jahouh has yielded positive results in the league previously, and this trend has continued at Odisha FC.

The presence of Diego Mauricio, Roy Krishna, and Carlos Delgado has further amplified Odisha FC's potency during set-piece scenarios, as each of them boasts a formidable aerial presence.

Striker Duo

Before the season commenced, doubts lingered regarding how Mauricio and Krishna would integrate into the system. However, credit must be given to the coach for optimizing the performance of these two prolific strikers. Throughout the season, the Krishna-Mauricio duo has consistently posed a threat.

Forwards Mauricio and Roy Krishna, tallying 22 goals between them in the ISL thus far, have formed an impressive attacking partnership. Currently, Krishna (12) ranks as the second-highest goalscorer this season, while Mauricio (10) shares the third spot with four other players.

Despite Krishna’s recent dip in form, Mauricio has admirably stepped up and took the goalscoring responsibility on his shoulders.

Weaknesses

Chances Creation

Generating goal-scoring opportunities has proven to be a challenge for Lobera's side, an aspect the head coach undoubtedly aims to address during the playoffs. 

Despite having players like Jahouh and Puitea in their arsenal, Odisha FC have only managed to create 179 chances during the league stage. Only NorthEast United FC (173) have created fewer chances than them.

Chances Conceded

Likewise, similar to the issue of chance creation, chances conceded have also been a concern for Odisha FC. They have allowed 205 chances during the league stages, which ranks second-highest among the teams qualified for the playoffs, following Chennaiyin FC, and seventh overall in the league.

Performance of young Indian players

Isak Vanlalruatfela has been sensational under Sergio Lobera. The 22-year-old has showcased his nimble footwork and ability to both score and create goals for others. He has featured in 21 matches in the league this season, contributing three goals and three assists.

Centre-back Narender Gahlot has assumed the defensive role on several occasions, partnering with either Fall or Delgado. Gahlot has made 12 appearances in the league, aiding his team in keeping two clean sheets. The 23-year-old has amassed 49 recoveries, 38 clearances, and 10 interceptions.

Player to Watch out for in Playoffs: Diego Mauricio

The Brazilian forward has been in stellar form recently, bagging three goals in his last two outings. He's been a constant menace in the opponent's box, making 77 touches inside their area and boasting an impressive goal-conversion rate of 35.71%.

Alongside his 10 goals, he's also contributed with an assist. With the knockout fixture's significance in mind, Mauricio was rested in the final league game, and his rejuvenated presence could spell trouble for Kerala Blasters FC's defence.

Records and Unique Stats

  • Odisha FC finished the league stage unbeaten at home with eight wins and three draws, becoming just the third side to remain unbeaten at home in the league phase of any single ISL season, following Bengaluru FC (2018/19) and Delhi Dynamos (2016).
  • Odisha FC players strung together 258 sequences of 10+ open play passes this season, the most by any side during the league stage in ISL history, surpassing a previous high of 239 by FC Goa in the 2018-19 season.
  • Amrinder Singh is leading the Golden Glove race with the most number of clean sheets (9) this season.
  • Odisha FC along with FC Goa have kept the most number of clean sheets (9) so far this season.
  • Isak Vanlalruatfela (Odisha FC) has recorded 17 shot-ending carries in the ongoing season, the highest such tally by any Indian player in the competition; indeed, one of those shots has ended in a goal this season.
  • Odisha FC have scored 12 goals from set-pieces this season, only Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa (13 each) have scored more such goals.
  • Amey Ranawade (Odisha FC) is the Indian player with the best differential between expected assists (1.93) and actual assists provided (6) in the ongoing Indian Super League season (+4.07 xA value) and second best overall behind Madih Talal (+5.27 xA value).
  • Ahmed Jahouh has made the most number of successful passes (1223) in the league stages; almost three hundred more than second-best Carlos Delgado (935), who is also from Odisha FC.
  • Ahmed Jahouh has also made the most number of touches (1868) in the league stages; almost three hundred more than second-best Jay Gupta (1581).
  • The Kalinga Warriors were the first side to secure a playoff berth this season.
  • Roy Krishna is second in the Golden Boot race with 12 goals, behind Dimitri Diamatakos (13).

Predicted Starting XI: Amrinder Singh (GK) ©; Amey Ranawade, Mourtada Fall, Carlos Delgado, Jerry Lalrinzuala; Ahmed Jahouh, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Princeton Rebello; Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Diego Mauricio, Isak Vanlalruatfela.