East Bengal and Odisha FC Set for Kalinga Super Cup Showdown

The Trophy (Image: AIFF)

After 27 intense matches in just 20 days, East Bengal FC and Odisha FC are the last teams standing in the quest for the Kalinga Super Cup 2024. The summit clash will take place at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, at 7:30pm on Sunday.

Both teams boast flawless records, having secured four consecutive wins to reach the final. East Bengal’s triumph over arch-rivals Mohun Bagan SG and a comfortable 2-0 win against Jamshedpur in the semi-final set the stage for this clash with Odisha. Meanwhile, Odisha navigated through Group D effortlessly and clinched a heated 1-0 victory against Mumbai City FC in the semi-final.

Odisha, coached by Sergio Lobera, are aiming to lift the trophy in front of their home crowd, to build on the success of the previous season. Previously, Lobera had led FC Goa to Super Cup glory in 2019 at the same venue. He expressed his excitement about the final and emphasised the importance of enjoying the moment. “We have a big game in front of us,” he said. “We have the responsibility to keep the trophy here. We are excited about this opportunity, and the most important thing is to enjoy this final. It’s a big game for everyone – the players, coaches, staff, and supporters.”

Carlos Delgado, Odisha defender and team captain, highlighted the significance of fan support and the team’s readiness to defend the title. “Our fans are very important to us,” he said at the pre-match press conference. “We can feel their support inside the pitch during the match. We are defending the title tomorrow. It will be a difficult game, but we’re ready.”

Odisha, unbeaten in their last 15 matches, presents a formidable challenge for East Bengal.

Odisha FC’s training session (Image: OFC)

East Bengal, eager to end their 12-year trophy drought on the national stage, are in fine form, undefeated in their last nine games. The last time the Red-and-Golds won silverware at the national level was when they won the 2012 Federation Cup, defeating Dempo in the finals.

Carles Cuadrat, their coach, acknowledged that it would be a difficult game, but expressed confidence in his team’s ability to secure a positive result. “We are feeling very good,” he said. “We have been fighting for results for a long time. It’s very important for us to be in another final. We couldn’t win the first one (Durand Cup), so we’ll try our best to get the result in this one.”

Cleiton Silva, East Bengal’s Brazilian attacker, has been instrumental in their success so far, finding the net four times in the tournament. The team is further strengthened by the return of Naorem Mahesh Singh and Lalchungnunga from national team duty. Both trained with the team and are available for selection.

Former Odisha midfielder Saúl Crespo, now with East Bengal, provided valuable insight regarding this tournament, as he sought back-to-back Super Cup trophies with different teams. “We know that Odisha is a very good team,” said Crespo. “I know about their players. But we will do our job in the final and try to win the trophy.”

Apart from the trophy, another carrot offered by this final is a spot in the upcoming AFC Champions League 2 (formerly the AFC Cup) playoffs. So, the stakes will be doubly high at the Kalinga Stadium.

East Bengal’s training session (Image: EBFC)

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