Odisha FC will want to gather some positive rhythm before the playoffs when they lock horns with NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on April 13, Saturday, at 7:30 pm IST.

Having been in contention to finish at the top of the standings for a reasonable part of this season, the Juggernauts’ form has slipped lately, having dropped eight points out of a possible 15 in their last five matches.

As of now, not only are they out of the race to become the ISL 2023-24 League Winners, but they also cannot finish the season in the second spot, which means that they will have to battle it out in the playoffs to qualify for the semi-finals.

The Highlanders will be playing their final league fixture and will cap off in what has been an interesting season for them. Coming on the back of a dismal 2022-23 campaign, NorthEast United FC fared better under the watch of a new head coach in Juan Pedro Benali.

The Highlanders have won five times and drew eight games in 21 matches. Though the top-six is out of their reach, they will want to bring curtains down to their campaign on an upbeat note.

What’s at stake?

NorthEast United FC

For starters, NorthEast United FC do not boast of the best of records against Odisha FC, having lost each of their last five games against them. This is their joint longest run against a single opponent in the league history (after Mumbai City FC from October 2016-November 2018). However, the Highlanders have been a force to reckon with at home in this campaign.

NorthEast United FC have won four matches in this stadium this season, which is their joint-highest in any season, after 2015 and 2016 when they won the same number of matches there.

The Highlanders have lost just one of their last four home games in the ISL. In terms of playing style, they bank reasonably on long balls from their defence to unlock the opposition of the defence. They have attempted 72.7 such passes per game since the start of 2024, only behind Jamshedpur FC (78.4), but, will they find a way to work out the Odisha FC defence this way?

Odisha FC

With a win in this match, Odisha FC will become the first team to record league doubles over Odisha FC in three straight seasons. However, the Juggernauts are winless in their last three away fixtures. The only time they endured a longer run without a victory on the road in the ISL was a stretch of five games from December 2022-February 2023. Their experienced attacking duo of Roy Krishna and Diego Mauricio has been central to their success so far.

For instance, the Juggernauts have recorded a 14.4% shot conversion rate this season, which is the highest for any team and Odisha FC’s best aggregate in a single season. Interestingly, Sergio Lobera has recorded only a 33% win record against NorthEast United FC, which is his third lowest aggregate against a single opponent in the ISL (FC Goa – 16.7%, Bengaluru FC – 27.3%). Lobera has in fact failed to win in any of his last three visits to this stadium. Will Saturday mark the day when things turn around for Odisha FC?

Key Players to Watch Out

Jithin MS (NorthEast United FC)

In 19 appearances this season, Jithin MS has recorded four goals and three assists. He has made 78 touches in the box of the opposition, making 15 key passes, creating 18 goal-scoring chances, recording 15 passes per game at 73% accuracy, winning 78 duels and rounding off 67 recoveries. Jithin has recorded a goal conversion rate of 14.29%, in addition to completing 35 successful dribbles. Jithin MS (NorthEast United FC) has recorded five pull back passes in the current ISL season, the second highest such tally by any player in the competition after Manvir Singh (7).

Jerry Lalrinzuala (Odisha FC)

Jerry Lalrinzuala has quietly gone about his work and stationed himself as the first-choice left back for Odisha FC. In his 20 appearances, he has helped the team keep seven clean sheets. Jerry has averaged 33 passes per game at 79% accuracy, making 14 interceptions, winning 16 tackles, emerging victorious in 81 duels, rounding off 92 recoveries. He has created six goal-scoring chances and also completed 33 clearances. Jerry has been an all-round package for Lobera and his outputs need to be kept close eyes on in this match taking into context the larger picture of the playoffs.

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Played – 19 

NorthEast United FC – 5

Odisha FC – 9

Draws – 5

Trivia: Odisha FC’s Roy Krishna has registered eight goal contributions against NorthEast United FC (4 goals, 4 assists) in the ISL.

Team Talk

“We are proud we did our best. Sometimes, football is unfair. That day was unfair to us. Both the teams looked to win. If we could have gotten a draw at least, it would have been good for us. But, that’s football. All the best to Chennaiyin FC and all the other teams who are in the playoffs,” NorthEast United FC Head Coach Juan Pedro Benali said before the game.

“The league’s not over. We still have three points to play for. If you sum it up, we have gone from being in contention for the top-six to being in contention for the league shield, which says a lot about the efforts of the team and the staff. Today, the expectation is to set a high standard for the club,” Odisha FC assistant coach Floyd Pinto said in the pre-match press conference.

ISL Fantasy

Nestor Albiach (4cr)

Has accumulated 68 ISL fantasy points so far

Jithin MS (3.7cr)

Has garnered 64 ISL fantasy points so far

Amey Ranawade (4.2cr)

Has bagged 93 ISL fantasy points this season

If not registered already, fans can participate in the overall league or club-based leagues based on their preferences. Create private leagues, inviting friends and fellow football aficionados to compete. Prizes include a Sony PlayStation ®️ ️5 gaming console, EA Sports FC 24, signed club merchandise, and a Gift Card worth INR 20,000, which will be awarded to 100 winners at the end of the season. Sign up at: https://fantasy.indiansuperleague.com/

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.