Odisha FC will play Punjab FC at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar for their Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 fixture on April 2, Tuesday, at 7:30 pm IST.

In their last fixture, Punjab FC drew 3-3 against FC Goa, with the trio of Wilmar Jordan Gil, Luka Majcen, and Juan Mera finding the back of the net once each. Punjab FC is eighth in the standings with 21 points from 19 games at the moment.

They are just a point behind the sixth-placed Bengaluru FC (22), who have also played an additional match (20) as compared to the league debutants.

By all means, Punjab FC is very much in contention to make it to the top-six, provided they get a run of positive results in their final three league encounters.

Odisha FC had their League Shield aspirations take a major hit on Saturday after a goalless draw against Bengaluru FC though. The Juggernauts have now garnered 36 points from 19 games, five behind the top-placed Mumbai City FC who have 41 to their name.

Whilst the Kalinga Warriors do face off against the Islanders once more in the league, i.e. on April 8, giving Sergio Lobera & Co. a chance to make amends; they need to ensure no more slip ups to realistically challenge for the top spot.

What’s at stake?

Odisha FC

Odisha FC will be looking to become only the second team after Mumbai City FC to complete the league double with a prospective win in this contest against Punjab FC. The Kalinga Warriors had won their previous match against Punjab FC by a slender 1-0 margin.

They are unbeaten in their previous 10 home games in the ISL though, winning seven times and drawing thrice in the process. They won their most recent game at the stadium by a 2-1 margin against East Bengal FC, and will be gearing to sustain this resounding record at home.

This is in fact their longest active home winning streak in the ISL. The quality in their ranks means that Odisha FC can never be ruled out of games.

For instance, they have won the joint most points (12) from losing positions, along with FC Goa, in ISL 2023-24 so far. 16.1% of their goals have been through headers in this season, with their tally of five in this front only bettered by the seven recorded by Mumbai City FC.

If Odisha FC finds its rhythm early on, it will be a challenge to prevent them from getting the upper hand over the opposition.

Punjab FC

Punjab FC has won and drawn once in their last two games in the ISL. If they avoid a defeat here, they will equal their longest ever unbeaten streak in the competition, i.e. a run of three draws between November-December 2023.

However, they have been a force to reckon away from home lately. Punjab FC has emerged victorious in each of their last three games on the road in the ISL.

In fact, they had gone winless in 10 such games prior to that in the competition, reflecting their improved run since the season break in January. If they find the back of the net against Odisha FC, it will equal their longest ever scoring run away from home, which is at three games at the moment.

21.7% of Punjab FC’s goals in the ongoing Indian Super League season have come via headed shots, the second highest such share of all teams (Hyderabad FC – 22.2%), with Wilmar Jordan Gil having a key role to play in the same. Will this be a game where set-pieces could prove to be crucial to the prospects of both sides?

Key Players to Watch Out

Isak Vanlalruatfela (Odisha FC)

The winger has become a constant presence in the Odisha FC frontline, making dazzling runs on the flank and delivering decisive passes in the final third.

He has scored twice and assisted thrice so far this season. Isak has averaged 25 passes per game at 76% accuracy, making nine key passes, creating 12 goal-scoring opportunities, completing 28 successful dribbles, and winning 80 duels.

He has made seven clearances and eight interceptions in addition to rounding off 81 recoveries as well.  Isak is averaging 2.6 completed dribbles per game in the ISL since the start of 2024, the highest such aggregate by any player in this period.

Wilmar Jordan Gil (Punjab FC)

Punjab FC has had their fortunes turnaround ever since Wilmar Jordan Gil became a regular in their starting XI. The striker has scored six goals and assisted once so far this season, recording a goal contribution every 70.55 minutes.

He has made 43 touches in the opposition’s box, completing 10 successful dribbles, taking 50% of his shots on target, making 22 recoveries, and registering a goal conversion rate of 23.08%. He has won 54 duels. Gil has recorded 10 headed shots in the ISL since the start of 2024, the highest such tally by any player in the competition in this period.

This allows Madih Talal to play lobbed crosses to him from lateral areas, thus opening up a significant window of goal-scoring opportunity for Punjab FC.

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Head-to-Head

Played – 1

Odisha FC – 1

Punjab FC – 0

Draws – 0

Trivia: Odisha FC’s Carlos Delgado has recorded a tackle success rate of 94.4% in the current ISL season, winning 17 out of his 18 attempted ones.

Team Talk

“The players needed to relax both mentally and physically and hence this break was important for them. We worked on specific areas that needed improvement thereafter,”  Punjab FC head coach Staikos Vergetis said in the pre-match press conference.

“We are very excited about this final few games of the season. With three matches remaining, we have a lot to play for still. The result against BFC, as I mentioned before, I’m very proud of the players,” Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera said ahead of the match.

ISL Fantasy

Amey Ranawade (4.2cr)

Has bagged 88 ISL fantasy points so far

Madih Talal (5.8cr)

Notched eight ISL fantasy points in Matchweek 19

Roy Krishna (7.2cr)

Has secured 82 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.