Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera aims to widen the gap with second-placed FC Goa when they take on the Gaurs in Matchweek 14 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday.

In a battle of the table-toppers, both teams will pose a fierce challenge to each other, with the winner of the clash claiming the top spot at the end of the game. Odisha FC currently sit at the top of the table with 30 points in 14 matches, while FC Goa sit just below them in second place with 27 points, having played three games less.

The Kalinga Warriors are eager to extend their lead by six points, intensifying the pressure on Manolo Marquez's side, despite the latter having games in hand.

“We know there are different numbers of games played, but we are in a very good position. I think maybe they (FC Goa) are feeling pressure because if we can win the game, and get three points, then the gap between the teams will be six points. Then, the opponent teams would need to win. And this is the target,” stated Lobera in the pre-match press conference.

The head coach acknowledged FC Goa as the best team at this moment, still unbeaten in the league after 11 matches. Odisha FC went down 2-3 against the Gaurs in the reverse fixture earlier in October but aim to approach the upcoming game in the same manner as their victory over FC Goa with a 3-2 scoreline in the Kalinga Super Cup 2024.

“We know we are going to play maybe the best team at this moment in the league because they are very competitive, they are working very well, in defence, as well as in the attack. They are playing practical football (which is) very effective. And it is not easy to play against them. But we need to follow the same way we played against them in the Super Cup,” shared Lobera.

The Kalinga Warriors are also coming off an excellent home record, having remained unbeaten in their last seven home games. They would be keen to build on the momentum against FC Goa.

“We are very happy to be here at this moment, with this situation and hopefully in our stadium in front of our supporters,
we can keep the good momentum we have," he added.

The Spaniard expresses pride in his players, believing that his squad clearly demonstrates their preparedness for significant challenges.

He said, “I am very happy to work with these players, this squad because they are showing everyone that we are ready for big challenges.”

The 47-year-old was full of praise for the work FC Goa has done so far, expressing confidence that his team has also performed exceptionally. He assured the fans that they would witness an amazing game on Friday.

“When you are playing a lot of games and you are in this position and you have these numbers, it’s about the work, it's about the good job they (FC Goa) are doing," he said.

"Also, we are doing a good job and hopefully, it will be an amazing game for the supporters, and for the people who are watching all our games. I think ISL needs games like this and we are very proud to be part of these big games,” Lobera concluded.

Odisha FC midfielder Lenny Rodrigues accompanied Lobera to the press conference. The former FC Goa player is confident that his team will secure all three points from this encounter.

Excited to meet his former team, Rodrigues stated, “I'm always happy to play against my former team and. The best thing is to play under this coach, it is very helpful for the youngsters. You know, for me also. So tomorrow's match will be a tough match. But we are ready and we'll get these three points for the team.”