Talking Point: Odisha FC eye causing a dent in NorthEast’s top-four aspirations

Odisha FC take on NorthEast United FC in Match 93 of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco on Sunday. The Highlanders are still in the race for a top four spot and will hope to secure victory against bottom-dwellers Odisha FC. They are unbeaten in their last six matches, but face a stiff challenge from FC Goa and Hyderabad FC for the two remaining semi-final berths. However, Odisha will hope to rain on their parade. Here, we look at a few talking points ahead of the game between NorthEast United and Odisha FC which could prove decisive.

Khalid Jamil leads Highlanders’ revival

Following their 1-1 draw against Bengaluru FC last month, the Highlanders announced the departure of their head coach Gerard Nus, with Khalid Jamil given the reins for the remainder of the season. Since then, NorthEast United are unbeaten in five matches, with three wins and two draws. They have handed defeats to both Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan under the tutelage of Jamil, and came from behind twice to secure a 2-2 draw against FC Goa. He has also overseen a rise in the performance of Federico Gallego, who has four goals and as many assists to his name so far.

Odisha FC play for pride

Currently at the bottom of the league table, Odisha FC are seven points adrift of 10th-placed Kerala Blasters FC. With four games to go for the Bhubaneswar-based club, a win will be good for their confidence. Odisha have the second-worst defence in the league, and will hope to secure their second clean sheet of the season when they take on the Highlanders. Meanwhile, none of their Indian players has found the back of the net as yet and they will be hoping things change for them in that regard come Sunday.

NorthEast United’s improving attack

NorthEast have scored eight goals in five matches since the arrival of Jamil and their attacking attitude will come in handy heading into a crucial run of fixtures. They have scored in all but one of their last seven matches, winning three, drawing three and losing just once. Although Gallego has been a standout performer for them in this run, the likes of Luis Machado and Deshorn Brown have also scored important goals to help them earn the points. Their last four matches see them playing against Odisha as well as Kerala Blasters FC, and the Highlanders will definitely look to take advantage of their leaky defences in their final push for a place in the top four.


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