East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat is delighted to play against his Spanish compatriot and Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera, as his team face the defending Kalinga Super Cup champions in the final at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday. 

Both Spaniards squared off against each other in the Indian Super League (ISL) final back in the 2018–19 season. Back then, Bengaluru FC head coach Cuadrat won the title, defeating Lobera, who was at the helm of FC Goa. But all the scenarios and circumstances have totally changed now, as they are now in charge of two different ISL outfits and different projects. However, Cuadrat expressed his excitement to play another big match against Lobera, who he has faced several times during his time in India.

“Both teams are in a very special moment, and I’m happy to play another big match against a coach like Sergio Lobera because he’s a great tactical coach and there will always be something special happening in the match in terms of tactics,” Cuadrat said in the pre-match press conference.

The Spaniard anticipates a difficult challenge against Odisha FC, who are currently unbeaten in their last 15 games across different competitions. Both sides played out a goalless draw during their last meeting in the ISL 2023-24 season. Both teams are unbeaten in the competition so far, having won all their games. Cuadrat believes will be a very strenuous match for his team, given their recent form.

“The dynamics are very positive for both teams, and we know how difficult it will be,” he expressed.

“The last match that Odisha FC didn’t get a win and didn’t concede was against us in the ISL, in the draw at the Salt Lake Stadium one month ago. After that, they have won six games in a row, and in their last nine games, they have kept a clean sheet against seven teams, so that shows how strong their defensive system is. It’ll be a very difficult game for us,” he continued.

East Bengal FC have been in scintillating right from the outset of the Kalinga Super Cup. They knockout out arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the Group A decider to reach the knockout stages. They then got the better of a strong Jamshedpur FC side to continue their winning momentum.

"I think the team is in a very good dynamic of results, which is very important to have consistency in performances,” Cuadrat said.

“But it’s the same with Odisha FC; they haven’t lost in a long streak of games too. Unfortunately, one of the two teams is going to lose, so the unbeaten dynamic will be broken somewhere. We always say in football that when you are unbeaten, you are getting closer to the game where you will lose,” he added.

Cuadrat emphasied the significance of using all six foreigners in the Kalinga Super Cup and also opined that it gives his team more stability in terms of offensive movements. He also had words of praise for the centre-back pairing of Hijazi Maher and Jose Antonio Pardo, who have been instrumental for the Red and Gold Brigade in the absence of Lalchungnunga.

“We are scoring goals every game, and it’s important for us to play with six foreigners as it gives us more chances in attack. Also, the solidity of Hijazi (Maher) and Pardo in defense is helping us to get the results,” he expressed.

Spanish midfielder Saul Crespo, who has been playing a pivotal role in the midfield for East Bengal FC, joined his head coach in the pre-match press conference. Notably, Crespo was also a crucial member of Odisha FC’s Super Cup-winning squad last season.

“We know that Odisha is a very good team; I know all the players, but we will do a very good job in the final because we will try to win the trophy,” Crespo said.