Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera is looking forward to his side’s upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) game against Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday.

Odisha FC have not had the best of start to the ISL 2023-24 season under new head coach Lobera. They played three games in which they have won only once. After opening their campaign with a victory against Chennaiyin FC, they played out a draw against Mumbai City FC and then lost to FC Goa.

They will be looking to bounce back against a Kerala Blasters FC side, who like Odisha FC, have lost just one game thus far.

Speaking at the pre match press conference ahead of the game, Lobera was excited about facing the Blasters at their home ground. He mentioned about the incredible atmosphere in Kochi and said that that kind of atmosphere is good for football matches.

"We are excited. It is a big challenge to play games with Kerala Blasters FC, always. They have a good team, we are going to play in the best atmosphere we can play in ISL because I love to play in this Stadium, with this environment, with this atmosphere in terms of football. We need to be ready for tomorrow (Friday’s) game. We know it will be a difficult game but we are ready for this challenge. We are working with excitement and we are trying to recover the team as best as possible because we already played one or two days ago but we are ready to compete," he said.

In their previous two games, Odisha FC have dropped points from winning positions. They took the lead against Mumbai City FC and FC Goa, but couldn’t stop the opposition from making their way back into the game. Both Mumbai City FC and FC Goa struck late in the game to steal points from Odisha FC. Lobera said that despite the results, he is proud of the attitude that his team has shown on the pitch.

"In our three games we played we won against Chennaiyin and I think we competed very well against two very strong teams like Mumbai City and FC Goa. We lost against Mumbai City in the remaining two minutes and we lost against FC Goa in the final two minutes too. I think we can be better. Obviously we need to improve a lot of things but I am happy and I am proud of my players,” Lobera explained.

Kerala Blasters FC are unbeaten at their home ground this season, winning two games and drawing once. The match will also see the return of Ivan Vukomanovic, who returns after a four-game suspension. Given their record at home, the Blasters will be favourites for the contest, but Lobera was looking forward to the challenge.

"I think they have a very good team, good coach, and new players. They are competing well, they are playing well with squad depth. When you are here as an opponent, you feel the atmosphere is very good for playing football. I think they are one of the favourite teams to finish in the top positions to play the playoffs, so it is a test for us, a good challenge."

Despite Odisha FC’s challenging start to the season, Lobera said that he does not feel pressure in football. He feels that football is a game to enjoy and it is his responsibility as a coach to help the fans enjoy the team’s game.

"I don't feel pressure. Football is a sport to enjoy. If we enjoy it, we enjoy our job and the supporters will enjoy it. I am enjoying our football and my job. In football there is no pressure. We need to go to the pitch for training sessions to enjoy doing our job. This is the only responsibility we have to make the people watching us happy. When the supporters are watching the game at home or in the stadium, it is our responsibility to give them good football. They need them to enjoy watching us. It is not only about the result or the end of the game," Lobera explained.

Odisha FC player Jerry Mawihmingthanga accompanied Sergio Lobera in the pre match press conference. The player spoke about how the atmosphere in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi will help motivate his team to win the game.

"Obviously they have very good supporters but I think it will give much more pressure to us to win the match," Mawihmingthanga said in the post-match press conference.

Jerry also praised Lobera and talked about how the Spaniard allows his team to express themselves on the pitch. Jerry, who has netted twice this season, said that he himself gets a lot of freedom to do his best on the pitch.

"I feel he is a good coach. He gives us confidence to be ourselves, to express ourselves on the ground and also to play as who we are. To give us freedom. So it is really important for me as a player to believe in myself and to do what I love and to express my feelings on the pitch," the winger revealed.