Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera expressed his desire to secure all three points as they prepare to host Kerala Blasters FC in Matchweek 13 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday.

The Kalinga Warriors currently sit third on the league table with 24 points in 12 matches. Lobera’s men have maintained an unbeaten streak in the league since October 27, 2023, when they suffered a 2-1 loss to the Blasters, courtesy of goals from Dimitrios Diamantakos and Adrian Luna. Diego Mauricio scored a consolation goal for Odisha FC in that fixture. 

Heading into the game on Friday, Odisha FC will look to avenge their last league loss while the Blasters will attempt to repeat their feat of downing the star-studded side. 

The head coach expects the second half of the season to be more difficult as all the teams get an opportunity to improve through the winter transfers, and as there’s a lot more at stake.

“The motivation is 200% because we are in a good position now. We know, everyone knows, the second half of the season will be more difficult because the teams changed a lot. Some clubs are improving their squads. And obviously, in the second half of the season, there are a lot of things to play for, for all the teams. And always in the history of the ISL, the second half was more and more difficult, but we need to be ready,” stated Lobera in the pre-match press conference.

Acknowledging the strength of the Blasters, the Spaniard feels that they did a great job considering the number of obstacles they had to overcome in the first half of the season.

He said, “Obviously, we are going to play against a team that is top on the table (second after FC Goa's win). Yeah, they deserve to be there. They did an amazing job during the first half of the league. Despite injuries, suspensions, and the loss of key players, I believe the most important element in the team is the squad. They are playing with a very clear idea.”

Despite the imposing strength of the opposition, the 47-year-old remains optimistic about a positive result.

He said, “Will be a tough game. But also, we are ready because, finally, we did a very good job. We are playing at home in Kalinga and hopefully, we can get three important points for us.”

Midfielder Lalthathanga Khawlhring, popularly known as Puitea, accompanied Lobera to the press conference. Puitea had worn the Kerala Blasters FC jersey between 2020 and 2022. Facing his former club, the Mizo reinforced his coach’s desire to secure all three points from the fixture.

“The mindset, as the coach said, is to secure three points. So, regardless of my old team, nothing changes. Had a good training session today, followed by good sleep and a proper meal. Ready for tomorrow,” shared Puitea. 

Lobera concluded the press conference by expressing his gratitude to the fans for their support during the recently concluded Kalinga Super Cup, where they finished runners-up after losing out to East Bengal FC by a 3-2 scoreline. 

“The message to our fans is, first of all, we lost one trophy at home. (It) was very painful, but they (the fans) helped us during all the games. The atmosphere in this stadium was amazing. I want to tell them. Thank you. We gave our best to try to achieve this, (it) was not possible, but we have a big challenge ahead. And I think together, we can achieve something important this season,” he concluded.