ISL 2023-24: Odisha FC seek positivity before playoffs in clash with NorthEast United

Guwahati: Having lost eight points out of a possible 15 in their last five matches, Odisha FC will look to gather some positive rhythm before the playoffs stage when they lock horns with NorthEast United FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Saturday.

Having been in contention to finish at the top of the standings for a reasonable part of this season, the Juggernauts’ form has slipped lately as they have lost more than a few points. As of now, not only are they out of the race to become the ISL 2023-24 League Winners, but they also cannot finish the season in the second spot, which means that they will have to battle it out in the playoffs to qualify for the semifinals.

The Highlanders will be playing their final league fixture and will cap off what has been an interesting season for them. Coming on the back of a dismal 2022-23 campaign, NorthEast United FC fared better under the watch of a new head coach in Juan Pedro Benali. The Highlanders have won five times and drew eight games in 21 matches. Though a place in the top six is out of their reach, they will want to bring the curtains down to their campaign on an upbeat note.

For starters, NorthEast United FC do not boast of the best of records against Odisha FC, having lost each of their last five games against them. This is their joint longest run against a single opponent in league history (after Mumbai City FC from October 2016 to November 2018). However, the Highlanders have been a force to reckon with at home in this campaign.

NorthEast United have won four matches in this stadium this season, which is their joint-highest in any season, after 2015 and 2016 when they won the same number of matches there. The Highlanders have lost just one of their last four home games in the Indian Super League. In terms of playing style, they bank reasonably on long balls from their defence to unlock the opposition of the defence. They have attempted 72.7 such passes per game since the start of 2024, only behind Jamshedpur FC (78.4), but, will they find a way to work out the Odisha FC defence this way?

With a win in this match, Odisha FC will become the first team to record league doubles over NorthEast United in three straight seasons. However, the Juggernauts are winless in their last three away fixtures. The only time they endured a longer run without a victory on the road in the ISL was a stretch of five games from December 2022 to February 2023. Their experienced attacking duo of Roy Krishna and Diego Mauricio has been central to their success so far.

For instance, the Juggernauts have recorded a 14.4% shot conversion rate this season, which is the highest for any team and Odisha FC’s best aggregate in a single season.

Interestingly, Sergio Lobera has recorded only a 33%-win record against NorthEast United FC, which is his third-lowest aggregate against a single opponent in the ISL, the others being FC Goa (16.7%) and Bengaluru FC (27.3%). Lobera has failed to win in any of his last three visits to this stadium. Will Saturday mark the day when things turn around for Odisha FC?

In 19 matches played between the two teams so far, Odisha FC have won five matches while NorthEast FC won five, five matches ending in draws.


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