Odisha FC will square off against East Bengal FC at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on February 29, Thursday at 7:30 PM IST.

The Juggernauts need to fend off intense competition as teams have raised their game to challenge competitively for the coveted top spot in the standings.

The Sergio Lobera-coached team drew their previous encounter against Mohun Bagan Super Giant at home and is now hosting their arch-rivals, someone who beat them to the Kalinga Super Cup title last month.

However, things have not been all pretty for the Red & Gold Brigade since tasting their first silverware under the tutelage of Carles Cuadrat.

They have garnered 10 points out of a possible 27 from their last nine matches, but their recent 1-0 win against Chennaiyin FC should inspire the team to finally start firing from all cylinders and get onto some positive momentum.

East Bengal FC is two points behind (18) the sixth-placed Jamshedpur FC (20) and has a game in hand (16) as compared to the Red Miners (17) too.

Odisha FC leads the second-placed Mumbai City FC (31) by a solitary point (32), and the Juggernauts have played an additional game (16) as compared to the Islanders (15).

By the time they take on East Bengal FC, Mumbai City FC could easily displace them at the top by possibly winning their clash against FC Goa at home tonight.

What's at stake?

Odisha FC

Odisha FC has historically gotten the upper hand over East Bengal FC, remaining unbeaten in their last five encounters against them since losing their first-ever fixture together by 3-1 back in January 2021.

Unbeaten in the competition since October, the Juggernauts have arguably let some of that form wean away, playing out successive draws against FC Goa and Mohun Bagan Super Giant in their last two matches. 

Another draw will make it their longest streak of such results in the history of the competition. Their formidable striking duo of Roy Krishna and Diego Mauricio ensures that they start the game on a strong footing, scoring 68% of their total goals in the first half of their matches in this campaign.

The 12 strikes that they have notched between minutes 31-45 of their games is the most by any team in this phase of the game of any ISL season.

Will this be enough to push East Bengal FC back into the proceedings right from the offset? Let's wait and watch.

East Bengal FC

Four seasons into the competition, East Bengal FC is yet to record consecutive victories in the ISL. Though their recent form has not been the most encouraging, the Red & Gold Brigade has a fantastic chance to do so if they play their cards right.

One of their greatest strengths this season has been a well-oiled frontline, powered by the domestic duo of Nandhakumar Sekar and Noarem Mahesh Singh, capped off by their Brazilian striker Cleiton Silva.

This has ensured that they have found the back of the net in each of their previous four away matches, which will keep the Odisha FC defense, marshaled by Mourtada Fall (set to make his 100th ISL start), on their toes.

Head coach Carles Cuadrat has won four matches against Lobera, which is the most that he has recorded against any tactician in the ISL.

Similarly, Lobera averages two points per match against Cuadrat, his highest rate against any coach he has faced at least twice in the competition. By all means, a match fitting of equals will be on the cards on Thursday.

Key Players to Watch Out

Diego Mauricio (Odisha FC)

Diego Mauricio's contributions might slip under the radar due to the inputs of Roy Krishna, but the Brazilian has played the perfect foil to the Fijian forward so far.

With six goals and an assist in 15 matches, Mauricio has thrived in the two-striker system involving him and Krishna.

He has taken 18 shots, out of which 72.22% have been on target. The striker has averaged 12 passes per game at 71% accuracy, winning eight aerial duels, earning 14 fouls, and converting two spot-kicks.

He always brings his best performance out against East Bengal FC, with no other player having provided more assists (4) and goal contributions (7) in this fixture than him.

Nandhakumar Sekar (East Bengal FC)

Nandhakumar Sekar has been a standout star for East Bengal FC in this campaign.

His returns upfront have shot up significantly, notching five goals and three assists in 16 appearances this season.

The attacker has been playing in the league since 2017-18, which makes this his eighth season in the competition.

Still, 33% of his career goals in the ISL have come only in ISL 2023-24, which speaks highly about the massive leaps he has taken in terms of progressing his career.

Having created 17 goal-scoring opportunities, he averages 19 passes per game at 73% accuracy, taking 16 shots out of which 10 of them have landed on target in this edition of the tournament.

With his form peaking at the right time, East Bengal FC can relish their prospects for the remaining few games.

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Played - 7

Odisha FC - 5

East Bengal FC - 1

Draws - 1

Trivia: East Bengal FC's Hijazi Maher has averaged 6.3 clearances per game in the current ISL season, the highest such rate by any player.

Team Talk

"Every game is like a final. When you have six games left, every match and every three points matters for all the teams involved," Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera mentioned in the pre-match press conference.

"We know the way that Odisha FC is playing with, the style that they have, and we, with our weapons, will show them what we have, and make things difficult for them," East Bengal FC assistant coach Dimas Delgado said ahead of the game.

ISL Fantasy

Amey Ranawade (4.5cr)

Has added an impressive offensive element from the flank for Odisha FC

Roy Krishna (7.4cr)

Has netted 11 goals this season

Nandhakumar Sekar (6cr)

Recorded eight goal contributions thus far

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Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries.