Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lokera backed his team to maintain their unbeaten home record as they gear up to face Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final first leg at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.

The Kalinga Warriors have been winless in all of their nine ISL outings against the Kolkata-based club. Lobera's men shared spoils twice against the Mariners in the ISL 2023-24 season, where they played out a 2-2 draw in the away fixture and their home match in Bhubaneswar ended in a goalless draw.

Under the leadership of Lobera, one of the most successful head coaches in the ISL, Odisha FC have experienced their best season thus far in their ISL history. They have made it to the semi-final for the first time in four seasons. Having spent 32 days at the summit of the league table, the Kalinga Warriors finished in the fourth spot with 39 points from 22 matches.

Lobera remained optimistic about bringing out positive outcomes from the forthcoming two-leg fixtures and showed confidence in his players’ ability to perform well against League Shield winners Mohun Bagan SG.

“I am confident because my players give me this confidence. My players showed this throughout the season that they are ready for big challenges and big games. When you have players and professionals like these while going to the dressing room, the training sessions, or the stadium to play big games, it gives (you) confidence,” he said in the pre-match press conference.

“As a coach, you know, they are warriors; they keep believing and fighting till the end, and they are ready for a big challenge. I am confident about tomorrow's game (on Tuesday) here (in Bhubaneswar) and about also competing well in Kolkata,” he added.

Lobera’s men have achieved a significant feat by finishing the league stages unbeaten at home. They have been unbeaten across 12 matches while playing at the Kalinga Stadium. The Odisha FC head coach emphasised the importance of carrying forward their exceptional home record in the first leg with the valuable support of their thousands of passionate fans.

“The team is competing well. In Kalinga, we have amazing numbers. It’s not normal in one (league) competition to get nine wins, three draws, and go unbeaten (at home). To play here is not easy because we have a good atmosphere, and the supporters give us lots of things during the game, especially in a difficult moments, pushing us to get something important,” Lobera commented.

“It's very special to play in Kalinga. We are coming to the stadium, and we are feeling that we are ready for everything. I think the opposing teams arriving at the stadium may think that it would be very difficult to play there in this stadium. We need to keep (doing) this. Our target is to finish the season unbeaten at home,” he continued.

The fixture will see the battle between two prolific forwards in the league who have been sensational for their respective teams throughout the campaign. For Odisha FC, the former Mohun Bagan SG forward Roy Krishna netted a 12 goals, while Mohun Bagan SG’s Australian talisman Dimitrios Petratos has 10 goals and six assists to his name. However, Lobera didn’t want to see this game as a battle between individuals; rather, he urged his players to fight as a team to get the better of Antonio Habas’ men.

“I think it's not about two players. It’s about the best first eleven. I think if we have good players who can score goals because the team is working well and the players are also working well both defensively and offensively,” he opined.

"We also have a lot of clean sheets. I think, in these kinds of games, it’s not about two or three players. Obviously, both teams have good individualities. But I’m sure tomorrow’s game, this semi-final, is not about individuals. It’s about to be the best team and to compete in the best way possible as a team,” he further added.

Lobera heaped praise on their beloved fans for showing their unconditional love and unwavering support during difficult moments. The former League Shield and ISL Cup-winning head coach acknowledged his opponent’s strengths and is anticipating a very close game against the Mariners on their home turf.

“It was an amazing night against Kerala Blasters FC in Kalinga, with a very good atmosphere with our supporters. But it’s past, we need to put the focus on the present, on tomorrow’s game. It will be a difficult game. We are going to play against a team that (has just) won the League Shield. They (Mohun Bagan SG) have a very good team, but we also have a very good team. We are unbeaten in Kalinga, and we want to keep the momentum in terms of our results at home,” he shared.

“Also, we competed well against them in the four previous games. We have two games, so it will not be not the same as it was against Kerala Blasters FC, which was a final. We need to manage the situation. We have one game at home and one away. Our focus is to be loyal to our style of play. We don’t need to change anything. We need to be careful because we know their power. But, if I were Mohun Bagan SG, I would not be very happy to play against Odisha FC at their home,” he signed off.

My main focus is to win the ISL Cup: Amrinder Singh



Odisha FC’s captain-goalkeeper, Amrinder Singh, accompanied his head coach during the press conference ahead of the semi-final clash against his former side, Mohun Bagan SG. The Punjab-born keeper is having another excellent season under the bars, as he leads the race for the Golden Glove awards with nine clean sheets.

Singh has had a significant impact on his team’s defensive resilience throughout the entire season, offering his team much-needed confidence with his leadership qualities and reliable performance between the posts. So far this season, he has made 69 saves, averaging three saves per match, with a 76 percent saving accuracy. The custodian has also recorded 468 successful passes, 215 successful distributions, besides 27 clearances and nine catches.

Singh seemed delighted with his performance this season but has set his eyes on winning the ISL Cup with Odisha FC, which is his primary objective ahead of the semi-finals.

“Of course, I am happy to compete almost every year for the Golden Glove. To be honest, it is not my first focus to win the Golden Glove,” he said.

“I am always happy to win trophies with my team. My focus is now on the semi-finals. Of course, if we can keep clean sheets, it will be good for the team. My main focus is to win the ISL Cup now,” he added.

Aligning with his head coach, Singh remained confident about performing well against the Mariners while addressing their stunning unbeaten home record in the ISL 2023-24 season.

“I am very confident about tomorrow’s game,” he stated.

“We have two legs (in the semi-final). Of course, it is not easy to play against us in Kalinga,” he concluded.