Talking Point: Will Odisha’s Diego Mauricio outshine Chennaiyin’s struggling foreigners?

Chennaiyin FC will be looking to put their heavy loss against Hyderabad FC behind them when they face Odisha FC in Match 53 of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21. Sunday’s first clash between Chennaiyin and Odisha at the GMC Stadium Bambolim promises to be an exciting encounter with plenty riding on the contest for both teams. The Marina Machans will be aiming to end their three-match winless run, while Odisha target successive wins. Here, we look at some of the variables that may have a bearing on the outcome of the match.

Chennaiyin’s foreign recruits need to up their game

The Marina Machans haven’t enjoyed the best of campaigns so far and a major reason behind their struggles has been the form of their foreign players. Esmael Goncalves and Jakub Sylvestr have combined for just two goals, while domestic players like Rahim Ali as well as Anirudh Thapa have netted twice each and Lallianzuala Chhangte has also scored once. With Rafael Crivellaro’s season coming to an end on account of injury, things have got from bad to worse even though he largely struggled in the matches he played. Crivellaro was one of the key players for Chennaiyin last season and it will be interesting to see how the Marina Machans cope with his loss.

Goal-scoring a major concern for Chennaiyin

Speaking of goal-scorers, the Marina Machans have found it difficult to replace Nerijus Valskis -- their top-scorer and Golden Boot winner from last season. While Valskis seems to be enjoying himself at the tip of Jamshedpur’s attack with six goals in Hero ISL 2020-21, the same cannot be said about Chennaiyin. The southerners have combined to score just eight times all season – the lowest by any team in the league. Valskis’ replacement Sylvestr hasn’t quite managed to fill the Lithuanian’s boots and Chhangte, who scored seven times for Chennaiyin last season, hasn’t replicated that same form in the ongoing campaign. If Chennaiyin are to turn things around, they need to improve in front of goal quickly.

Diego Mauricio and Jerry Mawihmingthanga crucial for Odisha

Diego Mauricio is undoubtedly Odisha’s go-to man this season and the Brazilian forward showed what he is capable of in his side’s last match which they won against Kerala Blasters FC. Involved in the own goal that drew Odisha level with Kerala, Mauricio bagged a brace for his team in the second half and took his goal tally for the season to five to account for half of his team’s goals in the ongoing campaign. He along with Jerry Mawihmingthanga are Odisha’s key men in attack. Despite playing just six matches so far, Jerry is the joint-top assist maker in the league (4 assists) and seems to have developed a good understanding with Mauricio.

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