Odisha FC will aim to reinforce their place at the top of the points table as they host the Mohun Bagan Super Giant (MBSG) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on February 24, Saturday, with the match beginning at 5 PM IST.

The Kalinga Warriors return to the field as they had no fixtures scheduled in Matchweek 15. Still, the matches and the dynamics of the standings ended up unfolding in a way that they held on to the top spot even after numerous clashes that could have threatened their placing in the points table.

They had played out a 1-1 draw against FC Goa in their last clash, and will be raring to come back to winning ways, especially considering that they haven’t faced a league loss since October. However, Mumbai City FC (28) could get level on points with Odisha FC (31) if the Islanders defeat Chennaiyin FC on Friday, and a result of that sort would inspire the home side further to lose no points whatsoever in this potentially gripping encounter.

Meanwhile, the Mariners have been on an upward surge since Antonio Lopez Habas assumed charge earlier this month. Three losses in December were followed with a draw in the Kolkata Derby. However, they have collected three consecutive wins since then, scoring seven goals, conceding merely twice, and keeping two clean sheets in the meantime.

The fact that they have a power packed squad at their disposal needs no second telling, but for the first time it appears that they are firing from all cylinders cohesively. But, will that be enough to oust an outright dominant Odisha FC unit and equal them on points on Saturday?

What’s at stake?

Odisha FC

The Juggernauts beat Mohun Bagan Super Giant to make it to the knockout of the AFC Cup after they were slotted in the same group earlier. However, that confidence has not reflected in their league outings against the Mariners, having failed to win any of their eight league outings against them in the ISL. Odisha FC had drawn and lost four times each in their eight ISL matches against them in the competition, and only against FC Goa have they played more (10) games without winning any in the competition history. Nevertheless, they are unbeaten in their previous 11 league matches, winning eight and drawing thrice in them. This is their longest such run in ISL history and in fact the longest such active streak for any team in the league. Their style of play is such that they grow in belief as the game progresses, which results in them closing out the opening half of the game on a high often. They have scored 12 goals in the final 15 minutes of the first halves of their matches, but have conceded only once in this time being. Sergio Lobera boasts of 80% win rate against Habas in the ISL and he has won each of their last three fixtures against him. Will Saturday make it four in a row?

Mohun Bagan Super Giant

Usually, teams bank on their home advantage to maximise their winning chances, but Mohun Bagan Super Giant has been tremendous away from home this year. They have bagged 15 out of a possible 18 points on the road in ISL 2023-24, which is more than they had collected (13) in all of their away matches in 2022-23. Their attacking talent comes through in the way they score their goals, having netted 86% of times from open play this season, which is the highest share amongst all teams in the league. Even in December, they had bounced back to notch a 2-2 draw in the home fixture against Odisha FC, which was in fact a period where they weren’t operating at their level best. Now, Habas must be counting his chances to get back at Lobera, with a full-strength squad that has rediscovered its mojo after hitting a rough patch recently.

Key Players to Watch Out

Roy Krishna (Odisha FC)

Roy Krishna has turned back the clock as the Fijian has been at the top of his game throughout the season so far. With 11 goals and one assist from 15 games, Krishna has been ruthlessly efficient in putting chances to bed.

He averages 22 passes per game, completing 75% of them, and has also created 22 goal-scoring opportunities in addition to winning 25 aerial duels.

An overwhelming 70% of his shots have been on target, and Krishna has in fact earned 22 fouls, helping his team explore chances from set-pieces as well.

Krishna has delivered the best differential between expected goals (5.6) and actual goals scored (11) in the current season(+5.4 xG value), and whether he sustains this imperious form in the coming seven games will massively impact the Mariners’ prospects as well.

Liston Colaco (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

Liston Colaco has the potential to be a menace for the opposition’s backline, operating from the left flank, piercing into the middle and either delivering precise passes or attempting fierce shots that can catch the goalkeeper off-guard.

He found the back of the net in the match against NorthEast United FC, and his lively, enterprising style on the wing ensures he wins fouls from dangerous positions.

Colaco has won 2.4 fouls per game this season, which the highest amongst Indian players who have played at least thrice this season. He has scored twice and assisted three goals in 10 appearances.

Colaco has created 11 goal-scoring opportunities and he along with Manvir Singh on the opposite flank ensures that the Mariners are never short of chances in their frontline.

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Head-to-Head

Played - 8

Odisha FC - 0

Mohun Bagan Super Giant - 4

Draws - 4

Trivia: Odisha FC midfielder Lenny Rodrigues is one away (149) from completing 150 appearances in the ISL.

Team Talk

This is the idea. We played very well before the break and we have no business to think of anything else. It’s an amazing and big game tomorrow, and we are excited about it,” Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera said in the pre-match press conference.

“Roy Krishna is a fantastic player, and it’s football, but we don’t have any specific plans for him. We have to respect the entire team in every single match,” Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonio Lopez Habas said.

ISL Fantasy

Amey Ranawade (4.5cr)

Has assisted four goals this season

Roy Krishna (7.6cr)

Has made 12 goal contributions in ISL 2023-24

Amrinder Singh (4.2cr)

Has kept seven clean sheets so far this season

Jason Cummings (9.1cr)

Bagged a goal in the last match

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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.