ISL: Odisha, Chennaiyin look to close gap with top-four

A win against Chennaiyin FC can take Odisha FC to within a point of fourth-placed Mumbai City FC on the Indian Super League table.

Chennaiyin's attack will revolve around the creative midfielder Rafael Crivellaro.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Odisha FC is all set to take on Chennaiyin FC in what is a crucial Indian Super League (ISL) encounter for both sides at the Kalinga Stadium here on Monday.

A win against Chennaiyin can take Odisha to within a point of fourth-placed Mumbai City FC. And with the league entering a decisive phase, Josep Gombau’s side cannot afford a slip-up.

Chennaiyin is also at a stage where anything other than three points could render the gap between it and the top four clubs too much to cut down. It is currently eighth on the table with nine points but a win will see the club draw level with Odisha which is sixth.

For all the emphasis on the possession-based philosophy that Gombau advocates, results have been a mixed bag for his team. However, it is coming off a 2-1 win over Jamshedpur and will look to continue its form.

But Gombau must fix his side’s vulnerability on set-pieces. Odisha has scored the joint lowest amount of goals from set-pieces this season so far (2). A more troublesome stat for the coach is on the defensive. Out of the 15 goals it has conceded, seven of them have come from set-pieces (most by any team). The likes of Carlos Delgado will have to marshall the backline better.

Gombau's side have been defensively vulnerable from set pieces this season. Photo: ISL/SPORTZPICS

Odisha has also had trouble closing out games. It generally tends to perform better in the first half before running out of steam in the second. Of the 13 goals it has scored, only five have come in the second half of games and 10 out of the 15 goals it has shipped have been in the second half. The Odisha think-tank must figure out the reason behind this trend and find a remedy soon enough.

“We have created a lot of chances, creating crosses. Of course, we have to score more goals. Going forward we have to be confident. Defensively we have to improve. It is not that we are conceding many goals. Under coach Josep Gombau we are trying to improve on our loopholes. Next match we will go for a win,” said Jacobo Varela, Odisha’s assistant coach.

The big worry for Chennaiyin will be the inability to string a couple of wins together. It has just two wins in nine games and is yet to win consecutive ISL games since the start of last season. The visitor is yet to keep a clean sheet under Owen Coyle, who has been in charge for three games. The inconsistent displays from the likes of Lucian Goian have not helped. Thankfully, Eli Sabia returns after suspension for Coyle.

“Whether we are playing at home or away, we treat matches in the same manner. If we don’t do that it takes away from our strengths. We have great respect for Odisha but if we change our philosophy it will be detrimental. We have some great goal scorers. We were the lowest-scoring team initially but when I came in suddenly we scored seven goals in three matches. We have to be positive against Odisha,” said Coyle.

Chennaiyin’s attack will most definitely revolve around Rafael Crivellaro. The Brazilian playmaker has been exceptional in the last three games under Coyle. He was involved in four goals in these three games and has created 21 chances in the season so far, second only to FC Goa’s Brandon Fernandes.

Chennaiyin is yet to win away from home this season and Monday will be the perfect time to get one. For Odisha, the sights will be set on a second consecutive win at the Kalinga Stadium.

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