Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera is looking forward to his side’s first home game of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season as they go up against Chennaiyin FC at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. 

Odisha FC qualified for the ISL playoffs for the first time in three seasons during the previous campaign. The Kalinga Warriors will be looking to taste their first silverware in the league after strengthening their squad besides appointing Lobera, who has won one ISL Cup and two League Shields previously. They will fancy their chances against a Chennaiyin FC side that have not made it to the playoffs since the 2019-20 season. 

“We are very excited. We are going to start a new (ISL) season and we are ready for this. I think this will be the most competitive ISL season. This will be my fifth season working in the ISL and I think that there are many good teams. We are going to face some strong teams. But we are excited for the challenge,” Lobera said in the pre-match press conference.

“Now, it's a new chapter. It's the first game at home in front of our supporters and against a good team. We are excited about this,” he added. 

Lobera will be well aware of Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle and his team, having competed against the Scottish tactician in the past while working at FC Goa and Mumbai City FC. Both Lobera and Coyle have returned to India, being previously involved during the 2020-21 season and will be facing each other for a third ISL season. Lobera was delighted to see Coyle return to India but admitted it will be a tough challenge to beat his counterpart.    

“It means a lot when a lot of coaches and players want to come back to the ISL and work in India. It means we are working in a good environment and a professional league. Playing against Owen is difficult because he is a very good coach. The games against him have always been difficult because he knows very well how to compete against good teams. I have played against him at Mumbai City FC and FC Goa and always, it was difficult playing against him. I am happy he is back in the ISL, but I am not happy playing against him,” he said.

Lobera was accompanied by centre-back Carlos Delgado in the pre-match press conference. The Spanish defender also acknowledged that it won't be easy for his team against Owen Coyle’s side.

“We know that the teams under Coyle compete very well. We are ready. We have been working hard and we know what we have to do. The game will be difficult.” Delgado stated.