ISL 2020-21 preview: Odisha FC up for Bengaluru FC challenge

Diego Mauricio has scored both the OFC goals this edition. His team-mates Marcelinho and Manuel Onwu are struggling to hit their stride.

Odisha FC has gone goalless in four of its five games this season, while Bengaluru FC drew a blank only against Hyderabad FC.   -  TWITTER/@OdishaFC

Odisha FC has gone goalless in four of its five games this season, while Bengaluru FC drew a blank only against Hyderabad FC. The two clubs squaring off at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Thursday have experienced contrasting fortunes in the 2020-21 Indian Super League.

Stuart Baxter's men have just one point so far. On the other hand, their upcoming opponent is unbeaten in the tournament. Hence, it is going to be an uphill task for manager Baxter who is still trying to figure out his best XI.

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Diego Mauricio has scored both the OFC goals this edition. His team-mates Marcelinho and Manuel Onwu are struggling to hit their stride. The former has 49 goal contributions in the ISL, but his current form is a concern.

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Onwu, who was on loan at Odisha from BFC in 2019-20, had scored seven and assisted two in four appearances back then. However, he's not had it easy since completing a permanent transfer.

The other attackers – Nandhakumar Sekar, Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Laishram Singh – have been ineffective upfront too.

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Defenders in the side have relatively performed better under the leadership of Steven Taylor, despite not accumulating a single clean sheet. And, Baxter feels the goals that Odisha concede cannot be attributed to the centre-backs alone.

"I don't think conceding goals is a direct responsibility of the centre-backs. I feel our centre-backs' performances haven't been sub-standard. We've defended well in some games. So, I can't fault them. We need to do better as a team, and it's those small things in critical phases that decide the outcome."

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Baxter is also aware of the tricky challenge that he is about to face next. "Bengaluru have done well. They started with a few issues to iron out but they've been making progress. It will be a tough game for us. We need to be better at attacking more based on our possession. If we can gain momentum there and take momentum away from the opponent, that will help us," he claimed.

Meanwhile, Carles Cuadrat’s outfit is coming off a six-goal thriller against Kerala Blasters. The Blues had four different goal-scorers in that encounter, with captain Sunil Chhetri making up for a penalty miss by finding the back of the net later.

The team could move to second spot with a victory in its next clash. However, the problem for Bengaluru is that it has dropped points from winning positions, during draws against FC Goa and NorthEast United. The backline has looked shaky at times in the second half.

In the chase for a second win on the trot, BFC could get complacent. But Cuadrat feels his squad is filled with mentally-solid individuals who can tackle any situation.

"We're ready for the game, and there's no over-confidence or complacency against any team. I know my players well. They're competitive, and they'll try to get the three points," he said.

"Teams like Odisha are dangerous, and we're conscious of that. They're fighting for points. We saw Mauricio scoring those goals. It showed their team has a strong mentality. We have to be at our best."

Bengaluru is excellent during set-pieces in the ISL. The club hasn't given away too many fouls as well. Cuadrat is delighted with this aspect of his side.

"I'm happy with my players. I think we're a physical team with lots of strong players like Ashique [Kuruniyan], Suresh [Wangjam], Erik [Paartalu] and Juanan, but at the same time, we're a team playing within the rules. If you see, we're committing fewer fouls," he added.

Having a fully-fit Vinit Rai at their disposal will be a boost for the Kalinga Warriors. Unfortunately for the Blues, Rahul Bheke is set to miss a second consecutive game as a precaution.   

The squads

Odisha FC: Kamaljit Singh, Ravi Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Ankit Bhuyan, Steven Taylor (England), Shubham Sarangi, Jacob Tratt (Australia), Gaurav Bora, Hendry Antonay, Kamalpreet Singh, George D'souza, Mohammad Dhot, Saurabh Meher, Cole Alexander (South Africa), Nandhakumar Sekar, Paul Ramfangzauva, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Vinit Rai, Thoiba Singh, Isak Vanlalruatfela, Boaringdao Bodo, Lahrezuala Sailung, Marcelo Pereira (Brazil), Jerry Mawihmingthana, Manuel Onwu (Spain), Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Diego Mauricio (Brazil), Laishram Singh.

Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Lara Sharma, Dipesh Chauhan, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Juanan (Spain), Rahul Bheke, Fran Gonzalez (Spain), Harmanjot Khabra, Ajith Kumar, Joe Zoherliana, Biswa Darjee, Namgyal Bhutia, Parag Srivas, Pratik Chaudhari, Wungngayam Muirang, Dimas Delgado (Spain), Suresh Wangjam, Erik Paartalu (Australia), Thoi Singh, Ajay Chhetri, Naorem Roshan Singh, Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha, Amay Morajkar, Cleiton Silva (Brazil), Sunil Chhetri, Kristian Opseth (Norway), Ashique Kuruniyan, Deshorn Brown (Jamaica), Udanta Singh, Edmund Lalrindika, Leon Augustin, Semboi Haokip.