ISL 2023-24: Odisha FC eye redemption against Mohun Bagan in semifinals

Bhubaneswar:  Odisha FC will take on former winners Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the first leg of their semifinal encounter of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 at the Kalinga Stadium here on Tuesday. Redemption will be high on the minds of Odisha players as they have never beaten Mohun Bagan Super Giant in ISL thus strengthening the desire to halt their MBSG juggernaut in the competition.

The Mariners qualified for the last four stage by virtue of emerging as the ISL 2023-24 Champions courtesy of finishing at the top of the points table at the end of the league stages.

On the other hand, Odisha FC edged past Kerala Blasters FC in the playoffs to make it to the semifinal. Both these teams have squared off multiple times this season, both in the ISL as well as the AFC Cup where they were pitted in the same group.

The Juggernauts will take confidence from having optimised their home advantage against the Yellow Army in the previous match, hoping for a similar outcome this time around.

Similarly, Mohun Bagan Super Giant will be riding high on confidence after they beat Mumbai City FC in the title-winning clash at the Salt Lake Stadium last week. They will be raring to take on an Odisha FC unit that has historically not fared well against them in the ISL.

For a large portion of the season, Odisha FC were in the reckoning for the top two positions in the table. However, they didn’t enter the playoffs with a good run of results behind them, hence settling for the fourth spot in the standings with 39 points to their name.

Contrastingly, the Mariners produced a late surge, taking Mumbai City FC heads on, winning four out of their last five games to edge past the Islanders and emerge as the ISL 2023-24 League Winners in an emphatic fashion in their home ground on the final day of the league stages.

Odisha FC are winless in their nine ISL encounters against the Mohun Bagan Super Giant. They have drawn five games and lost four in this period. Both their matches in the ISL this season resulted in a draw, and only against FC Goa (10) have Odisha FC played more matches without recording a victory in the league.

Simultaneously, Sergio Lobera has managed to build a bastion at the Kalinga Stadium in his first season with the club. They are unbeaten in their 12 matches at home in the current campaign, and Bengaluru FC are the only side to have played more consecutive matches on their home turf without losing (19 matches from January 2018 to November 2019).

However, Odisha FC had defeated the Mohun Bagan Super Giant by 5-2 in their AFC Cup fixture earlier this season, showing that they have it in them to get the better of the mighty Mariners across 90 minutes. Lobera will want to leave no stone unturned to get his side at least a slight goal advantage before the high-octane action shifts to Kolkata for the second leg.

Mohun Bagan Super Giant have been on a terrific run of form both at home and on the road in this campaign. They have won each of their last four away matches and kept a clean sheet in two of them. In fact, the club has dropped points away from home only twice this season, which suggests that Odisha FC cannot completely bank on their strengths.

Moreover, they are unbeaten in their last five playoff games in the competition, keeping a clean sheet in four of these matches.

Arguably, their biggest strength is the ability to unlock the opposition in different ways, having won 57.05% of their aerial duels, which is the highest such rate of any team in ISL 2023-24. Whilst Odisha FC have Mourtada Fall to guard their backline against any such threats, they must counter every such facet of the game where the Mariners are ahead of them.

Having scored 47 goals from their 22 league matches, the Mohun Bagan Super Giant can turn the intensity on in the frontline, keeping them in the fray of things in all phases of the match.


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