Indian Super League (ISL) side Odisha FC will take on A-League outfit, Central Coast Mariners FC, in the first leg of the Inter-Zone Play-Off Semi-finals at the Central Coast Stadium in Australia on Thursday. 

The two-legged fixture will take place in Australia and India, with the first leg being played at the Central Coast Mariners' home ground in Gosford, Australia, and the second leg scheduled to take place at Odisha FC's home ground in Bhubaneswar. This will be the first time that these two teams will face each other.

Odisha FC has had a remarkable performance in the ongoing AFC Cup 2023-24. The Kalinga Warriors have emerged as the only team left in the continental competition representing the nation. They have qualified for the  Inter-Zone Play-Off Semi-finals as Group D winners, having secured 12 points with four wins in six games against strong opponents like Bashundhara Kings, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, and Maziya S&RC.

Both teams are currently in form. Odisha FC lead the ISL standings while the Central Coast Mariners are placed second in the A-League table, behind Wellington Pheonix.

Odisha FC's pre-match press conference ahead of their match against the Central Coast Mariners FC was held on Wednesday in Australia, featuring assistant coach Floyd Pinto and Roy Krishna.

Pinto said: "We've been thoroughly enjoying the responsibility of representing India and Asia throughout the season. It's been quite the journey, and this season has been a breakthrough for us. Despite not being expected to get out of the group, we made it to the AFC quarter-finals. We're enjoying the process, and everything else is in the background. So all in all, it's a very good work environment. It's a pleasure to be working under Sergio. He'll be there. He'll be there tomorrow. "

Krishna, who has experience of playing in the A-League, returns to Australia. He expects a tough outing against the Mariners but was looking forward to the fan support for himself and the team in Australia.

Krishna said: "It's going to be tough. We can't take them lightly. They have very young talented players, and they're in the top two of the table for a reason. We respect them. But at the same time, we're going to have our fans. There are a lot of Fijian and Indian communities coming to the game, so they'll be our 12th men. It's going to be an exciting match, and we're really looking forward to it."

Know your Opponents 

The Central Coast Mariners FC was established in 2004 as one of the eight founding clubs of the A-League. The team is based in Gosford, New South Wales, Australia, and is affectionately known as The Mariners. Over the years, the team has achieved considerable success in the Australian top-tier league, having won the A-League championship twice and finished as runners-up five times.

The Mariners, led by head coach Mark Jackson, have been performing exceptionally well lately. They currently stand second in the A-League and have had a brilliant campaign in the AFC Cup so far. The team emerged as Group G victors with 13 points after four wins and a draw. They beat teams like Terengganu FC, Bali United FC, and Stallion Laguna FC to make it to the Inter-Zone Play-Off Semi-finals.

Form Guide 

Odisha FC: LWDDW

The Kalinga Warriors, who are currently at the top of the ISL table, will be have their task cut out in Australia with the home advantage in favour of the Mariners. Odisha FC has had a mixed run of results lately, winning two matches and drawing as many while suffering a defeat in their last five matches. Odisha FC have no injury concerns going into the first leg of the AFC Cup Inter-Zone Play-Off Semi-finals.

Central Coast Mariners: WWWWW

The Mariners are in excellent form, winning all five matches they have played lately, in the A-League and AFC Cup 2023-24. This makes them the undoubted favorites as they face Odisha FC, with the added advantage of playing at home first. Central Coast Mariners FC will be playing with a fully fit squad as they host The Juggernauts.

Key Battles 

Roy Krishna vs Jacob Farrell 

Roy Krishna has been lethal in head coach Sergio Lobera's system this season, leading the race for this season's ISL Golden Boot, with 12 goals and an assist. The Fijian center-forward has had a few good outings in the AFC Cup, having scored a goal against Maziya S&RC along with a goal and two assists against Mohun Bagan Super Giant.

All this would make for a brilliant watch when Krishna faces The Mariners defender Jacob Farrell, who has been extremely effective for his team in defence. The 22-year-old has also had six assists and three goals from 25 appearances both in the A-League and AFC Cup this season.

Angel Torres vs Mourtada Fall 

Angel Torres, 23-year-old winger has been exceptional for the Central Coast Mariners this season, with a total of 11 goals and three assists in the A-League from 18 matches and two goals and four assists in the AFC Cup from seven appearances, making the Colombian one of the major threats in the Mariners' squad.

But Torres will need to overcome the towering castle in the backline of Odisha FC, Mourtada Fall. Fall has been the rock of Odisha FC's defence this season, helping to maintain five clean sheets out of the 13 matches he played so far. The Senegalese center-back has had an impressive 10 crucial interceptions and 58 clearances completed. A passing accuracy of 87 percent, along with three goals scored makes him a dangerous prospect to come across for any striker.

Match Details 

Date: 7 March 2024

Time: 1:30 PM IST 

Venue: Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, Australia

Telecast: JioCinema, Sports18 and FanCode app