Season Preview: Odisha FC target maiden playoff appearance in Hero ISL 2020-21

After making their debut in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) last season and finishing sixth in the standings, Odisha FC will at the very least be targeting a playoff spot in the 2020-21 campaign. They have made quite a few changes to their squad ahead of the new season and will be hoping that their players can gel together quickly and hit the ground running under the tutelage of experienced head coach Stuart Baxter.

One of the busiest teams in the transfer window, Odisha made wholesale changes to their squad for Hero ISL 2020-21 with faith in promising domestic talents being the overarching characteristic.

The likes of Kamalpreet Singh, George D'Souza, Saurabh Meher and Hendry Antonay are expected to play their part in defence alongside the more established Shubham Sarangi and Gaurav Bora. Their defence, in fact, was a major drawback for them last season, making the addition of the aforementioned players along with the foreign signings of Steven Taylor and Jacob Tratt to tighten things at the back a no-brainer.

The potential centre-back pairing of Taylor – Odisha’s captain for the season – and Tratt have all the makings of a top class centre-half partnership and should provide them with a solid foundation to build from.

In midfield, a lot will depend on Vinit Rai, who will be eager to kick on after a topsy-turvy first season with Odisha. Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Nandhakumar Sekar will also have roles to play by getting froward and supporting their teams in attack from midfield. The duo had decent campaigns last time around and will be expected to kick on with some more goal contributions in Hero ISL 2020-21.

New additions like Paul Ramfangzauva, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Isak Vanlalruatfela and Baoringdao Bodo will be keen to make their mark as well, while South African midfielder Cole Alexander is likely to be entrusted with directing traffic from midfield and comes with prior experience of playing under Baxter.

However, their biggest weapon from an attacking standpoint has to be the addition of playmaker Marcelinho to the team. The Brazilian, who has a wand of a left foot, will be playing in his fifth Hero ISL campaign and will look forward to adding to his 31 goals and 18 assists in the league. Not only will he be entrusted with taking set-pieces and creating chances, Marcelinho will have to be one of Odisha’s leaders in the dressing room and on the pitch for their relatively young team.

Up front, a lot of the responsibility for finding the back of net will be on Manuel Onwu, especially after he joined Odisha from Bengaluru FC on loan in January and went on to be a revelation for them by scoring seven goals and bagging two assists for the Bhubaneshwar-based club. He’s since signed a permanent contract with the club and it will be interesting to see if he can start the new season in a similar vein of form.

He will be supported by Brazilian striker Diego Mauricio and Daniel Lalhlimpuia, who will be itching to open his account for the club as last season he could not find the back of the net even once in 16 games. That said, integral to Odisha’s fortunes for the season is how quickly they learn to play as a team. With many new players in the squad, it will take time for them to get on the same wavelength. However, they have plenty of quality in all areas of the pitch and good players telepathically get along with one another on the field, making them a threat in Hero ISL 2020-21.

Best Finish: Sixth in Hero ISL 2019-20

Goalkeepers: Arshdeep Singh, Kamaljit Singh, Ravi Kumar, Ankit Bhuyan

Defenders: Steven Taylor, Saurabh Meher, Gaurav Bora, Kamalpreet Singh, Mohd Sajid Dhot, George D’Souza, Shubham Sarangi, Jacob, Hendry Antonay

Midfielders: Baoringdao Bodo, Cole Alexander, Isak Vanlalruatfela, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, S Lalhrezuala, Nandhakumar Sekar, Paul Ramfangzauva, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Vinit Rai, Thoiba Singh

Forwards: Diego Mauricio, Manuel Onwu, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Laishram Singh, Marcelo Pereira

Fixtures:

Vs Hyderabad FC - November 23

Vs Jamshedpur FC - November 29

Vs ATK Mohun Bagan - December 3

Vs Mumbai City FC - December 6

Vs FC Goa - December 12

Vs Bengaluru FC - December 17

Vs NorthEast United FC - December 22

Vs SC East Bengal - January 3

Vs Kerala Blasters FC - January 7

Vs Chennaiyin FC - January 10

*Fixtures for Odisha FC announced as of now

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