Chennaiyin FC hosts table toppers Odisha FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday.

It is a clash of contrasting forms, between a team that has not been defeated in the competition since October and a side that has lost four out of its last five matches.

The Juggernauts are on the move constantly, facing tough tussles from Mohun Bagan Super Giant and Mumbai City FC who are sniffing down their necks. With 35 points from 17 games, Odisha FC is just two ahead of the Mariners (33), who have played a match fewer (16).

The Islanders are not far off either (32 points from 16), and Odisha FC needs to sideline whatever competition it faces to ensure the team does not have to play catch-up later on in the campaign.

The Marina Machans were well placed to contest for the playoff positions at the mid-season break. However, with 15 points from 16 games, things don’t seem all rosy for them at the moment. They are five behind the sixth-placed Jamshedpur FC (20), who have played two additional matches (18). Whilst the distance is within bridging limits, it needs an urgent turnaround of form at all costs.

What’s at stake?

Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC had their three-match-long unbeaten streak at home broken by Mumbai City FC last week. The last time they lost consecutive games were defeats to FC Goa (0-2) and Mumbai City FC (2-6) from October to November 2022, which is a run that the team will be cautious of avoiding in the forthcoming fixture. It has certainly not been a desirable season for the Marina Machans though.

Their 15 points from 16 matches is the second least tally they have accumulated at this stage of any ISL season, only after the eight they had garnered in 2018-19. In fact, the nine losses that they have suffered are also the second-highest after 16 matches in any campaign, after the 12 they had faced at this phase in 2018-19.

Chennaiyin FC has certainly lacked ideas moving forward, despite the presence of a seasoned frontline. For instance, the team has netted 25% of its goals through penalties in this campaign, which is the highest such share from all teams combined. Six games in a reasonable enough time to turn things around, and Owen Coyle is not averse to produce late comebacks either – facets that should infuse confidence within the Chennaiyin FC setup. 

Odisha FC

Odisha FC has not tasted defeat in any of its last four fixtures against Chennaiyin FC, having won and drawn twice each in the time being. If they take at least a point on Sunday, then it will equal their second-longest such run against any team in the competition (NorthEast United FC – 5).

They are well-placed to do so though, remaining unbeaten in their last 13 ISL fixtures, winning a whopping nine times amongst those games. In fact, this unbeaten streak is over three times than their second-best record of four games in this regard.

They have built the foundation of their success in settling into the game gradually and not letting the opposition a look-in once they do that. For instance, Odisha FC has scored 13 goals in the final 15 minutes of the first half of their matches this season, and conceded only once in that time period.

That allows the side to head into the half-time break high on momentum and capitalise upon that to deliver solid second half outings to seal the required result. Chennnaiyin FC must find ways to crack through this method to see success in this match.

Key Players to Watch Out

Aakash Sangwan (Chennaiyin FC)

Aakash Sangwan has quietly emerged as an underrated consistent performer for Chennaiyin FC in this campaign. Across nine appearances, he has made four blocks, 13 clearances, and 19 interceptions, in addition to making 33% passes per game at 70% accuracy.

56.2% of attempted passes by Sangwan this season have been forward passes, the second highest such share among all Indian outfielders in the current ISL campaign after Mohammed Salah (57.7%) (minimum 200 attempted passes). 169 of Sangwan’s 301 passes this season have been forward passes. He has also netted once, in addition to creating nine goal-scoring opportunities, making it a standout campaign after debuting last season.

Amey Ranawade (Odisha FC)

Amey Ranawade has settled seamlessly into the Odisha FC backline, playing key roles on both ends of the pitch. Defensively, he has been proactive, making key challenges, tackles, interceptions, and has always been on the lookout to seek goal-scoring opportunities upfront.

Ranawade has made seven blocks, 24 interceptions and clearances each, and 41 tackles across 17 appearances in the ISL 2023-24. He averages 31 passes per game at 81% accuracy and has netted once in addition to securing four assists as well. He thrived under Sergio Lobera at Mumbai City FC and is doing so again in Odisha FC, becoming one of the key architects that they are seeing this season.

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Head-to-Head

Played – 19

Odisha FC – 8

Chennaiyin FC – 3

Draws – 8

Trivia: Odisha FC’s Roy Krishna (99 appearances) is one away from becoming the 41st player to make 100 appearances in ISL history.

Team Talk

“We know we are at our best when we play at home. It’s unfortunate that we lost here to Mumbai City FC, but we had some good aspects of our game play, which we need to look at,” Chennaiyin FC Head Coach Owen Coyle quipped ahead of the match.

“Every game is very important for us. We got a big win in the last match. We got three very important points. Chennaiyin FC is a difficult team to beat, it’s not easy to beat them, we have to compete against everything and prepare for the game accordingly,” Odisha FC Head Coach Sergio Lobera said in the pre-match press conference.

ISL Fantasy

Amey Ranawade (4.3cr)

Has made five goal contributions this ISL season.

Roy Krishna (7.2cr)

Has notched 11 goals and one assist so far.

Ryan Edwards (3.5cr)

Has made 1.07 blocks on average per game.

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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.