Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera emphasized the significance of their upcoming match against East Bengal FC at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

Odisha FC, led by head coach Sergio Lobera, are currently on an excellent run. With a fully fit squad and high morale, they are determined to seek redemption against East Bengal FC, who defeated them in the Kalinga Super Cup final last month.

The Kalinga Warriors are currently leading the ISL table with 32 points from 16 games, and have not lost in their last 12 games in the league. Meanwhile, East Bengal FC, coached by Carles Cuadrat, are also desperate for every point to stay in contention for this season's highly contested sixth playoff spot. They are currently standing in eighth place in the points table with 18 points from 16 games. 

Lobera emphasized that his team is adopting a mindset where each ISL match is considered a final. They are taking a game-by-game approach until the end of the league phase.

"Every game is like a final, when you are playing for the League Shield, three points from the remaining six games is a lot, not just for us but it's the same for everybody," Lobera stated in the pre-match press conference. 

"We need to put the main focus on tomorrow's game, we need to be like before, step by step, game by game. At the end of the season, if we are functioning the same way we have done till now, then we can celebrate some things with our people, with our supporters. But for now, the focus is only on tomorrow's difficult game," he added.

When asked whether he considered this juncture a defining moment for the team, especially considering the upcoming schedule that includes both ISL and AFC Cup matches, the coach responded, "We need to go game by game, we need to play against East Bengal FC, then Chennaiyin FC, and then the AFC Cup (match)."

"It excites us, and we don't feel any pressure or compulsion to win. In the last 20 games, we've only lost one. This is the work and job the players are doing. it's amazing when the players are able to achieve something like this. I don't know how many teams can say the same. We need to keep focus on tomorrow's game and no more than that," he added.

The Spaniard expressed satisfaction with a fully fit squad available for selection, highlighting the return of Ahmed Jahouh, the midfield maestro, after serving his one-match suspension against Mohun Bagan Super Giant.

"I think it's helpful to have a full squad, it gives us more options but as you saw in the last game we can compete even if we don't have a full squad. Now we have (Ahmed) Jahouh back so it will be more helpful for me," he said. 

Lobera sheds some light on his game plan against the Red and Gold Brigade. Despite being the joint top-scoring side, tied with the Mariners in the league, Lobera anticipates a tightly contested match, especially considering the good defensive organization of the opposition.

"Our plan is to play against a good team and strive to grow. If we believe we are unbeaten and everything is going perfectly, it's a big mistake. There is always room for improvement; we've made mistakes in some games, and we need to be realistic about it because overconfidence is not got," he shared.

"I don't expect this to be a high-scoring game, because previously when we played they played very defensively. I don't expect an amazing game for the supporters, again it will be a very tactical game. The most important (thing) is how we play, the opponent team is not important, if they are going to do something different," added Lobera. 

We are fighting for the top spot: Carlos Delgado Defender

Carlos Delgado accompanied Lobera to the pre-match press conference. The 33-year-old centre-back has been a regular starter in all competitions for Odisha FC this season, playing an influential role both on and off the field.

Delgado offered his perspective on the upcoming match against the Red and Gold Brigade, reflecting on their last encounter in the Kalinga Super Cup final. He also shared his thoughts on their current form, providing insight into how his team can prepare for the game.

"Tomorrow is a different game, different scenario, different competition. For sure, we will be having a difficult game because they are defending very well, they are pressing very well. But we need to be more focused on ourselves, we need to be focused because every small detail could prove crucial," he stated.

The press conference concluded with Delgado sharing his approach, as well as the team's, for their upcoming matches.

"We are fighting for the top (spot), it's true there are many teams there, right now we have five teams. As I mentioned, a small detail can be detrimental, one single goal, one single game, and every point will be important (for us). But for us tomorrow's game is the priority," he said.