The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 prepares for a potentially gripping encounter between Odisha FC and FC Goa at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on February 9, Friday, 7:30 p.m. This match is set to have ripple effects at the top of the points table, with the Juggernauts placed first currently with 30 points from 14 matches. However, the Gaurs are unbeaten at present too, and they have 27 points in 11 encounters to their name.

This will be the last time that these two sides square off in the league stages this season, and hence it is the only opportunity for Sergio Lobera & Co. to build a gap with the opponents in a direct faceoff. This fixture had produced a thriller at the Fatorda Stadium earlier in this campaign, with a late stunning winner by Jay Gupta helping Manolo Marquez’s team to take three points from the game.

Both these sides were meddling with similar fates in the last couple of campaigns in the ISL. They were struggling to break out from the crowded space in the middle of the table, and it required them to make special appointments at the coaching level to spark a comeback. Lobera and Marquez didn’t take too long to make an impact, getting their desired signings and accordingly ensuring that they delivered the required results.

It promises to be a clash between the offensive firepower of the Kalinga Warriors against the defensive resilience of FC Goa. Odisha FC have found the back of the net the most times (27) amongst all teams in ISL 2023-24, whereas the Gaurs have given away the least amount of goals (5). A fine balance of these aspects of the gameplay for the two sides will go a long way in determining their fates in this particular encounter.

What’s at stake?

Odisha FC

After starting the competition on a slightly sluggish note, Odisha FC has not put a foot wrong in the previous 10 games. They are on an unbeaten streak since October and have struck the right cord in all departments. The defence is marshalled by the ever-so-reliable Amrinder Singh and Mourtada Fall whereas Ahmed Jahouh’s creative acumen in the middle has been critical in inspiring their offensive endeavours.

Roy Krishna and Diego Mauricio are playing the perfect foil to each other, setting up goals and bagging them aplenty, much to the delight of the supporters. Lately, they have been making light work of whichever opponent has come their way.

The experienced strikers in their ranks have helped them record a 51.7% shooting accuracy, which is the highest for any team in the league. They have also converted most shots amongst all sides, ensuring that 17.7% of their attempts have resulted in a goal. From the back to front, they have been ticking all boxes consistently and need to ensure another similarly smooth outing against Marquez’s men.

FC Goa

FC Goa wiped off any concerns about injuries to key players hampering their progress from the first leg of the season when they got past Hyderabad FC by 2-0 last week.

Carlos Martinez had not been in the best run of forms earlier, but he showed remarkable efficiency to get on the scoresheet twice, and the head coach will be banking on him to continue the heroics against the Juggernauts. The Gaurs are built solidly at the back.

They have faced just 1.6 shots on target per game this season (lowest amongst all teams), and are efficient in terms of converting the opportunities that their creative midfielders produce. In terms of their playing style, the Gaurs are highly insistent and rather vigorous to recover and then retain possession, winning the ball within 40 meters of the opposition’s goal on an average 8.8 times per game in this campaign.

In all fairness, this encounter promises to be a clash of the equals, with both sides largely subscribing to similar playing philosophies and having seen resounding success with new tacticians at the helm in this campaign.

Key Players

Lenny Rodrigues (Odisha FC)

Lenny Rodrigues has been an important member of the Odisha FC unit this season, helping them keep control and even dominate the oppositions from the centre of the park. He dons the role of a screening midfielder, who protects the backline with his tenacious efforts by shielding them from the attacking midfielders of the other team. In addition to his defensive skillsets, Rodrigues is a neat passer of the ball, completing 90% of his passes in ISL 2023-24.

He makes 35 of them on an average per 90 minutes and has also earned seven fouls in addition to recording 14 interceptions. He might slip under the radar for not having made any goal contribution thus far, but Rodrigues is as vital a player in Lobera’s winning machine as anyone else.

Carlos Martinez (FC Goa)

The Spaniard striker is gradually getting into the groove, showing some sharp movement near and inside the 18-yard box to receive and convert the chances that were created for him. He is a smoother operator in the final third, always on the move, interlinking with fellow teammates, and unlocking the opposition with his nimble feet and eye for a pass. With five goals and an assist in 11 games, Martinez has proven his mettle in this FC Goa unit.

He has also won 26 aerial duels, and created 15 goal-scoring opportunities, in addition to ensuring that 57.89% of his attempted shots land on target. He might have been overshadowed by the brilliant duo of Noah Sadaoui and Victor Rodriguez earlier this season, but Martinez has it in him to shelve aside his doubters and come out on top of his game for the benefit of FC Goa in this fixture and also the coming ones.

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Played – 21

FC Goa – 13

Odisha FC – 3

Draws – 5

Trivia: Odisha FC have recorded the highest passing accuracy (81.6%) amongst all teams in ISL 2023-24.

Team Talk

“This is our target in this our game. We have played a different number of games, but we are in a very good position. I think even FC Goa are feeling pressure, in terms if we win the game and get three points, then the gap between the two teams becomes six points and the opponent teams need to win and this is the target. We are going to maybe the best team at this moment in this competition, because they are very competitive, working very well, in defence, and attack, playing tactical and effective football, and it’s not easy to play against them,” Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera said in the pre-match press conference.

“I think we are facing the team that is in a very good moment. Their last defeat was two consecutive ones a long time ago. They are unbeaten in a lot of games in all the competitions. They have a very good team and coach. They have a very good strength and conditioning coach too. I think that they are in a very good moment and it will be a tough game for us, but it will be a tough game for them too,” FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez said prior to the game.

ISL Fantasy

Jay Gupta (3.6cr)

Assisted one of Martinez’s goals against Hyderabad FC

Arshdeep Singh (3.7cr)

Has helped FC Goa keep seven clean sheets in this ISL season

Amey Ranawade (4.4cr)

Impressive presence on both ends of the pitch

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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.