This game is all or nothing for us: Odisha FC head coach Josep Gombau
Odisha FC head coach Josep Gombau expects his side to make a turnaround and find themselves in the top six when they take on Chennaiyin FC in the upcoming Hero Indian Super League (ISL) fixture at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Chennai, on Thursday.
After two successive away defeats to Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, Gombau will be eager to get back to winning ways against Chennaiyin FC to break into the top six. Three points against the Marina Machans will see them move up to the sixth spot in the Hero ISL table, overtaking Bengaluru FC.
“We’re in the position where we cannot miss our chances. With only five games left in the season, this (game) is all or nothing for us. We all are focused on this (game) and everyone is working very hard to get into the playoffs. Last game, we didn't get the result but it’s not like the team is not working hard, or not playing well. It's football, sometimes the results come to your side and sometimes not,” Gombau said during the official pre-match press conference.
In their recent games, the Kalinga Warriors were seen struggling to make much of an impact in the final third. Gombau stated that his side is highly motivated and he doesn’t see any attitude issues in his side.
“We didn't win against two big teams away (recently). I don't see any game in which we performed poorly. I never thought that the attitude of the players is not good. I saw everybody fighting, and running, so I cannot blame anybody for their attitude. Indeed, there were mistakes but we need to learn (from them). I say, for example, loss of concentration in some actions or bad decisions in other actions. And maybe a lack of accuracy in the final third,” he added.
Odisha FC started the campaign pretty strongly and were inside the top 6 for most parts of the season, but have seemed to lose their momentum midway through the season. The Spaniard affirmed that everything is in their hands and they don’t rely on others. With games coming thick and fast, they will utilize their bench strength and go game-by-game.
A trip to the south awaits 👊🏻🟣#OdishaFC #AmaTeamAmaGame #TheEasternDragons #CFCOFC #HeroISL pic.twitter.com/kghu8fVCqd— Odisha FC (@OdishaFC) January 31, 2023
“It's football, we gained momentum in the very beginning. Yesterday, we were discussing with the players that we are not that bad a team now that we are struggling. I think that sometimes small details change the game. We need to work hard and prove that we are a playoff team and if we don't do it then it's because we don't deserve it. At the end, you play 20 games against all the opponents, 10 at home and 10 away, and if at the end you are not there (top six) then because you don't deserve it,” Gombau said.
In the reverse fixture, Odisha FC beat Chennaiyin FC 3-2 at home. Diego Mauricio, Nandhakumar Sekar, and an own goal from Vafa Hakhamaneshi guaranteed three points for the hosts. With both teams still in contention for a playoff berth, Gombau revealed that this game will be quite different from the previous encounter but believes they have enough strength to play right away against Chennaiyin FC.
“I think it will be a very equal game since they are also fighting for a spot in the playoffs, normally when you have this kind of game it is a lot of respect from both sides. In this game, whoever handles the pressure better, who has a better mentality, will have more to say. But it is the moment for the players to step up and show that they are ready to deal with this kind of situation," he said.
"As coaches, and as footballers, we need to deal with this as we have a responsibility towards the club and because this is our job. It's not just training, it is also about competing. And I think that is what we will bring tomorrow to Chennaiyin FC,” the Spaniard added.
Head coach Gombau was accompanied by defender Nikhil Prabhu in the pre-match press conference. The defender, who has made three appearances in the league this season, highlighted his progress under the Spanish coach.
“Since coming on to the club I have improved a lot under the coach and the coaching staff. They built up confidence in me and I am starting to see that myself,” Prabhu said.
“The coach has brought out a different side in me. I am starting to keep the ball more and building up from the back, that's what my main prospect is and I am developing that day by day. In terms of defending, they have taught me a lot of things that, as a young player, I need to learn and adapt to so that I can improve myself and grow as a player. Even when I commit a small mistake or a big mistake, they have encouraged me and they have helped me to correct it,” he added.
With no more than five games left in the league stage of the season, the playoff race could go down to the wire. The 22-year-old defender stated that they will give their everything to ensure three points from the remaining games.
“Like every game, we are going into the game (against Chennaiyin FC) for all three points. We as a team believe in ourselves and we are going to give everything to win this game. The coach has his tactics and we just need to translate that onto the pitch and if we implement it in the right way, we will have the three points in the bag,” he concluded.