Punjab FC head coach Staikos Vergetis remains cautious as they prepare to take on Odisha FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.

The Shers currently occupy the eighth spot on the league table with 21 points off 19 matches. With a win against Odisha FC, Vergetis’ men will leapfrog to the sixth spot overtaking Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC, who have 21 points and 22 points, respectively. 

Odisha FC sit third on the league table with 36 points from 19 matches and have established themselves as one of the strongest teams this season, still in contention for the League Shield. 

The head coach acknowledged the threat that the Kalinga Warriors pose to Punjab FC’s playoff hopes. 

Tomorrow (on Tuesday) we have to face a very good, high-quality team that knows what to do in every phase of the game,” stated Vergetis in the pre-match press conference. 

The two teams clashed in Delhi back in December 2023 during the first half of the ISL 2023-24 season. Odisha FC narrowly beat Punjab FC, taking home all three points courtesy of a goal by Roy Krishna.

When asked about how Punjab FC has changed since then and if he has noticed any changes in Odisha FC as well, Vergetis shared, “I believe that we are stronger. Regarding Odisha FC, they have his (Sergio Lobera) way, his style of game, which is effective.”

Appreciating Odisha FC's style of play, the Greek tactician added, “It’s a team that can play football with possession or can kill the opponent with one or two passes to attack. They know how to read the game, and depending on what happens on the field, they react appropriately”

Punjab FC will conclude the league stage with two home games against Mohun Bagan SG and East Bengal FC on April 6 and April 10, respectively, following their encounter with Odisha FC.

Sharing insights into his preparation for those games, the 47-year-old stated, “Regarding the three games that remain for us, we have to be focused on each game separately. Each game that is coming, we have to concentrate on that particular game. We must not see all the games together because we don't play them all at once.”

He continued, “I believe that, in my coaching career, the coach must be 100% focused on their duties. My responsibilities include preparing the team for each game, put a correct plan, helping the players during play, and making modifications or adjustments as necessary throughout the game. And I'm focused on this task.”

We will fight for three points: Defender Khaiminthang Lhungdim

Defender Khaiminthang Lhungdim accompanied the head coach to the press conference. The 23-year-old has featured in 15 matches for the Shers so far, helping his team register three clean sheets. Lhungdim has made 23 interceptions, two blocks, completed 20 successful tackles, 33 clearances, and won 83 duels.

With faith in their preparation, Lhungdim shared, “We are being prepared. We will fight for the three points.”

The Manipur-born right-back is now facing competition for his place in the starting eleven from Tekcham Abhishek Singh, who has also been showcasing great form. Abhishek Singh has succeeded in 11 tackles and 33 duels, made a block, 20 clearances, and 13 interceptions in five fewer matches than Lhungdim.

Sharing their relationship with regards to their inside competition, Lhungdim said, “I have a good relationship with Abhishek. We fight for the position and I really enjoy it.”

Appreciating both the right-backs, Vergetis commented, “I would like to say that I'm very lucky as a coach to have Abhishek and Lhungdim, two youngsters for this position. They are very good people, very talented players, young in age. I hope to see them on the national team one day.”

Lhungdim concluded the press conference by sharing the mood at the camp and outlining their aim for the remaining three matches.

“The team morale is good. As we know, three points in (each of) the three games are very important for us. And it's like a final for us. We will fight like the final games with these three matches,” he signed off.