Nothing less than a win matters for Odisha as they host NorthEast
Odisha FC’s penultimate match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar will be against NorthEast United FC on Friday. With 21 points from 16 matches, the Josep Gombau-coached outfit need nothing less than a miracle to qualify for the semi-finals of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20. Nonetheless, they’ve been hopeful of the same but will need to win both of their remaining matches to stand any chance of qualification.
The same, however, cannot be said about the Highlanders who head into the fixture second from bottom. In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, though, it was the Guwahati-based club who got the better of Odisha, winning by a 2-1 margin, and the club will be looking at that encounter for motivation ahead of Friday’s clash.
Mid-way through the season, Gombau’s side found some real form and solidified their position in the top four. However, the last three games have seriously derailed their hopes of making it through, with the club losing three games on the bounce. Those losses, though, came against Bengaluru FC, FC Goa and ATK FC – the top three teams this season. Fortunately for Odisha, they are still in with a chance to qualify for the top four, although they will need the likes of Mumbai City FC and Chennaiyin FC to drop some serious points.
The club’s final two fixtures are both at home, which will come as good news for their supporters. Gombau’s side have a decent record in their own backyard this season, winning four of their seven Hero ISL 2019-20 matches on home turf. They also have the fourth-highest points per match ratio in the division so far.
Giving them further joy heading into Friday’s match will be the Highlanders’ inefficiency to score goals. The Odisha defence has conceded 10 goals in the last three matches and will be relieved to face an outfit, who haven’t scored in seven of their last 10 matches.
Striker Manuel Onwu also looks to be settling in well, scoring three goals in two matches for the club. The Spaniard’s shooting accuracy has substantially improved from his time in the Bengaluru colours and he will be hoping to use that to help Odisha beat NorthEast.
The Highlanders finally broke through and scored their first goals of the calendar year in the 3-3 draw against Jamshedpur in their last match. The club had failed to net even once before that in 2020, and therefore, the trio of goals would have come as a relief for their fans. However, their winless streak extended to a concerning 11 matches, thus directly leading to the departure of former head coach Robert Jarni.
Khalid Jamil was named the club’s interim head club and he’ll be looking to help his team at least finish on a high. To his delight, midfielder Federico Gallego looked something like his former self in the Jamshedpur fixture, as he created chances and even got on the scoresheet. Redeem Tlang, likewise, was sensational down the wings and will be looking to continue that against Odisha.
Having already dropped out of the semi-finals race, the club have provided starts to a lot of young players among whom, Lalengmawia seems to be the pick of the lot. Despite playing just eight matches this season, the 19-year-old is averaging 43.38 passes per game – the most amongst NorthEast players. The defensive side of his game is equally laudable, with the youngster putting an average of seven tackles per match – the highest by any Indian player in the Hero ISL this season. The Odisha tie will offer him further opportunity to showcase his talents and extend those numbers, thereby staking a claim for a permanent spot in the Highlanders starting XI.
Odisha FC: Francisco Dorronsoro (GK), Gaurav Bora, Shubham Sarangi, Narayan Das, Carlos Delgado, Nandhakumar Sekar, Vinit Rai, Xisco Hernandez, Marcos Tebar, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Manuel Onwu
NorthEast United FC: Subhasish Roy (GK), Mislav Komorski, Kai Heerings, Wayne Vaz, Reagan Singh, Lalengmawia, Redeem Tlang, Federico Gallego, Ninthoi, Jose Leudo, Andrew Keogh
Did you know?
- NorthEast have not scored a single goal from a cross this season.
- Odisha have conceded nine goals from crosses this season – the highest in the division.
- NorthEast have scored only four goals in the first half of matches this season – the joint-lowest in the division.
Live Broadcast Schedule:
Hero ISL 2019-20 Match 82: Odisha FC vs NorthEast United FC
Date: February 14 (Friday)
Time: 7:30 PM onwards
Channels: Star Sports Network
Streaming: Hotstar and Jio TV