Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera expressed confidence in his team's ability to win the League Shield ahead of their away match against Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai on Monday.

The two teams ended the match on level terms in the reverse fixture with a 2-2 scoreline but now, with the League Shield at stake, the two sides will lock horns for three crucial points, going all out. While Odisha FC currently occupy the third position on the league table with 39 points off their 20 matches, Mumbai City FC side holds a five-point advantage over them despite playing the same number of matches, sitting atop the league table. 

The Kalinga Warriors will wrap up the league season by playing an away game against NorthEast United FC on April 13 following their clash with Mumbai City FC. Lobera shared an optimistic outlook on their chances of bagging the League Shield if they can win both their matches against Mumbai City FC and NorthEast United FC.

We are preparing the team, as always, with ambition, trying to prepare in the best way possible for the next game. But, obviously we are in the most important and most beautiful period of the season. We are fighting for everything. Being honest, I feel if we win the remaining two games, we can finish top of the table. This is my feeling, and we need to fight for this,” stated Lobera in the pre-match press conference.

He continued, “The next step is tomorrow (on Monday), to play against Mumbai City FC. And let's see what happens. Because we are ready for this challenge. The team shows character, shows ambition, shows that we are ready for big games in big competitions.”

Lobera is excited about facing his former clun. During his season-long tenure with the Islanders during the 2020-21 season, the Spaniard led Mumbai City FC to the ISL League Shield and ISL Cup, becoming the first head coach in ISL history to win both trophies in a single campaign. 

“It's a special situation for me because I won everything here (in Mumbai) in only one year, and I didn't have the opportunity to meet the supporters, the fans, to play in the stadium because it was a difficult period living in a (Covid) bubble. It is a special game, with personal feelings," he expressed.  

“But this is one thing and another thing is the professional way. You know, the team (Odisha FC) is very excited about this possibility to play in a very good stadium against a very strong team in front of their supporters,” he added.

Confiding in his players about how they will perform against the Islanders, the head coach stated, “The players give me confidence. I believe in my players 200%. And I am sure tomorrow will be a big game against a very strong team.”

Custodian Amrinder Singh has had a great season so far, registering nine clean sheets in his 20 appearances. On the attacking front, Roy Krishna and Diego Mauricio have bagged a cumulative 21 goals already, contributing to over 50% of Odisha FC’s goals this season. While Lobera acknowledged the contributions of these players, he gave credit to the entire team. 

“The team is working very well as a team, and individually, it is possible to shine when the team is working. Well, I think if we are getting good numbers in attacking positions, also with clean sheets, it's because of teamwork. I think there are a lot of players who are doing a very, a very good job, an amazing job. And sometimes we put the focus on, I can understand the situation because it's football, the players who are scoring goals or the goalkeeper who is having an amazing season. But, it's teamwork,” he opined. 

The 47-year-old doesn’t believe that his team is under any pressure even at the climax of the ongoing ISL season. 

He shared, “We are not feeling pressure. We are feeling excitement. The pressure is for Mumbai City FC, for FC Goa, for Mohun Bagan SG. It's compulsory for them to win the trophy. They need to win the trophy. For us, we are living a dream.”

Senior players help me a lot: Aphaoba Singh

Forward Aphaoba Singh accompanied the Odisha FC head coach to the press conference.

The youngster has only made a single appearance so far this season during Odisha FC's home game against NorthEast United FC in November, spending eight minutes on the pitch. 

On being asked how he is learning from senior players in his team, the 20-year-old said, “They help me a lot, Practising with them, I have improved my one-touch and two-touch. I have observed players like Roy Krishna, and Ahmed Jahouh, their passing and touches, and it’s indeed great.”