Hero Super Cup semi-final 2: Key battles to watch out for in Odisha FC vs NorthEast United FC
After the rollercoaster ride in the group stages of the Hero Super Cup, the prestigious tournament is moving towards the business end with Bengaluru FC booking their ticket for the final. To challenge them for the trophy, Odisha FC and NorthEast United FC will lock horns to determine the second finalist of the Hero Super Cup on Saturday.
Odisha FC topped their Group B with two victories and one draw, overcoming Hero Indian Super League (ISL) semi-finalists Hyderabad FC and East Bengal FC. Meanwhile, NorthEast United FC came out winners of Group D consisting of League Shield winners Mumbai City FC and Chennaiyin FC, surprising everyone after finishing below both teams in the Hero ISL campaign.
The Kalinga Warriors would be confident coming into the fixture after doing the double over NorthEast United FC in the latest Hero ISL campaign but the Highlanders look a different side after the break and the team is playing fearlessly and commanding victories over the Islanders and Churchill Brothers have pumped the team for the all-important clash. So, the mini battles on the pitch will be the key for either team to win the crunch fixture.
Here's a look at where the place in the Hero Super Cup Semi-final match between Odisha FC and NorthEast United FC can be won or lost:
Wilmar Jordan vs Carlos Delgado
A commanding centre-back, who has kept the whole team together with his leadership skills and protected the team goal with the best of his abilities will be up against a dominating striker, who is captaining his side while leading by example with his goal-scoring prowess and impact on the pitch. The semi-final clash brings see a clash of two experienced campaign taking on each other looking to nullify the opponent's threat while contributing to their own team's performance.
Delgado was a rock at the back for Odisha FC in the Hero ISL campaign where they achieved the feat of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in the club's history. The Spanish defender made 42 interceptions and 74 clearances in the Hero ISL campaign and he was crucial in keeping the defence compact in the Hero Super Cup group stages, only letting in two goals in three games to provide a solid backline for the attackers to flourish. For Jordan, the Colombian striker is the current top goalscorer of the tournament with six goals in three matches. His four-goal spree against Churchill Brothers displayed the ruthlessness he possesses and a brace against Mumbai City FC to prove how he's the man for the biggest occasions.
Diego Mauricio vs Alisher Kholmurodov
One of the most in-form strikers in the country going against the towering centre-back still coming to grips with Indian football. Mauricio is currently on his hot streak of scoring goals and the Brazilian striker has shown no signs of slowing down after winning the Golden Boot in the Hero ISL 2022-23 season and it's going to be a difficult task for Kholmurodov to keep Odisha FC's talisman in check.
Mauricio would be looking to repeat his heroics against NorthEast United FC after bagging a goal and an assist in the last two meetings. Known for his killer instincts in and around the box and clinical finishing, the 31-year-old would be looking to benefit from the Highlanders' defensive struggles with Floyd Pinto's men have conceded eight goals in the last three games. In a fixture where goals are expected to take the centre stage, Kholmurodov's dominating presence is going to be crucial for the Highlanders. The 26-year-old has settled in quickly in the backline after joining the club at the beginning of the Hero Super Cup and has brought the much-needed steel and muscle in the backline. Kholmurodov would be expected to match Mauricio's strength while also trying to nullify his clever moments in the penalty area to keep NorthEast United FC's goal safe.
Victor Rodriguez vs Gani Nigam
In a battle for the supremacy of midfield, the creative general from Odisha FC locking horns with the Highlanders' powerhouse. Victor Rodriguez has been the difference maker for Odisha FC in midfield with his play-making skills, meanwhile, Gani Nigam has instilled the work rate, grit and perseverance in the Highlanders midfield.
For the Kalinga Warriors, Rodriguez has come big in the crucial moments, a goal against Aizawl FC and the winner against Hyderabad FC in the 86th minute displayed the Spanish midfielder's goal-scoring abilities. His telepathic connection with Diego Mauricio is going to be crucial in order for Clifford Miranda's men to turn the Semi-final clash in their favour. To counter Rodriguez's dominance in the middle of the park, Gani Nigam would need to be at his best and the 24-year-old has produced impressive performances in the Hero Super Cup so far. His goal against Churchill Brothers displayed his knack for scoring goals while his main attributes are to keep the team ticking and supplying balls to the attackers. Nigam's work rate and endurance have the potential to create problems for Rodriguez but the Spanish maestro has a few tricks up his sleeves as well.