ISL 2023-24 || Bagan ride on momentum, Odisha FC have home advantage

Left: Dimi Petratos, Source: MBSG Media. Right: Carlos Delgado, Source: ISL

“It will be a difficult match for us, but we have to prepare,” said Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonio Lopez Habas before travelling to Odisha for the first-leg of the first ISL semi-final against Odisha FC on Tuesday. The Spanish head coach has just guided his team to the prestigious ISL League Shield a week ago, but now he wants his boys to go all out to defend the ISL trophy as well.

Odisha FC, on the other hand, despite having a decent season, finished fourth in the table and managed to seal their first-ever ISL semi-final berth. After missing out on the Durand Cup and the ISL Shield, they will be seeking redemption by lifting the ISL trophy. But they will have to overcome the tough challenge of the Mariners.

The Mohun Bagan versus Odisha FC rivalry has intensified this season with four meetings between the two teams. Each team emerged victorious once, but the last two games ended in draws.

The visitors will be high on confidence playing Odisha away, having accumulated 28 points from all away games this season, the most by any team. Additionally, Mohun Bagan’s forwards are in red-hot form, which has been key to their success in the League Shield race. Dimitri Petratos (10 goals, 6 assists), Armando Sadiku (8 goals, 1 assist), and Jason Cummings (10 goals, 2 assists) have consistently delivered when needed.

It will be challenging for the Mohun Bagan forward line to penetrate Odisha’s sturdy defense, which includes burly defenders Mourtada Fall and Carlos Delgado, along with shot-stopper Amrinder Singh, who boasts 9 clean sheets, the most by any team this season. The Juggernauts also pose a threatening attacking line with goal machines Roy Krishna (12 goals) and Diego Mauricio (11 goals) in their ranks.

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Mohun Bagan’s Training. Source: MBSG Media

Krishna, a familiar face for the visitors, will be aiming to thwart Mariners’ hopes of reaching the ISL final. “Surely, I will give him one hug before and after the match. But now my interest is in my team. In football, there are no friends, only opponents,” stated Habas when asked about his former striker.

Though the Mariners boast an enviable record of away points, breaching Odisha’s fortress will be challenging as the hosts remained unbeaten at home this season in the ISL with a record of 9 wins and 3 draws. However, Sahal Abdul Samad’s return will be a significant boost for the visitors after a long injury lay-off.

“He (Sahal) is perfectly 100 per cent fine. All I have to say now is that we have the entire squad available for this match,” assured Habas of Sahal’s availability against Odisha.

A mouthwatering clash in the first-leg is anticipated, as Sergio Lobera’s boys look to capitalise on their home advantage before heading to Kolkata for the second-leg. The green and maroon brigade, on the other hand, will aim for a strong showing in the away clash before going all-out in the home leg in front of a capacity crowd at Salt Lake Stadium.

Also Read: ISL Playoffs 2023/24: Extra-time winner helps Odisha FC continue home domination, defeat Kerala Blasters 2-1