Odisha FC and Jamshedpur FC will be looking to put their indifferent run of form in the Indian Super League (ISL) to an end when they meet at the Kalinga Stadium here on Friday.
It should make for a spectacle in Bhubaneswar as Odisha finally makes its debut in its home city. Josep Gombau’s side has had to play its previous home games of the season from Pune due to the unavailability of the Kalinga Stadium.
The Spanish coach will hope that a change of setting will turn its fortunes around and give the side an impetus in its push for the play-off spots. Odisha, placed seventh on the table (9 points), has won just one out of its last six games and is coming off a demoralising 3-0 defeat against FC Goa.
“Yes, there is a chance (of reaching the playoffs). We have nine points and we have played nine games away. We are very excited to finally play at home. We now have three crucial games at home. Depending on how these three games go, we will know if we have a chance to get into the top-four or not.
"Jamshedpur is fourth in the table with 13 points. But if we beat them tomorrow, we will be just one point behind them,” said a confident Gombau.
Its opponent Jamshedpur is also in a rut. It is winless in the last four matches and is placed fourth on the table (13 points) only because of a strong start to the campaign. However, a win on Friday will see the side go level on points with third-placed Bengaluru FC.
Odisha has been inconsistent in front of goal. It has drawn blanks in four out of its nine matches and the attack, led by Aridane Santana, needs to start converting chances if it is to make a push for a top-four spot.
The likes of Xisco Hernandez, Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Nandakumar Sekar have looked good but have failed to show consistency. The defence has caused alarms for Gombau. Odisha has scored joint second-lowest goals from set-pieces (2) and has conceded joint-highest goals from set-pieces (6).
Clearly, set-piece is an area that Jamshedpur will look to utilise and hurt Odisha. But the Men of Steel have their own worries, especially in defence. They have struggled to keep hold of leads, winning only one out of three games where they were ahead at half-time. Moreover, seven out of the 11 goals conceded by Jamshedpur this season have come in the second half, something which Tiri and team will be looking to improve on.
Interestingly, Odisha has conceded more goals (10) in the second half than Jamshedpur. Jamshedpur has also failed to keep a single clean sheet in its last four matches.
“In our style, we don't care about defence or attack. We make a balance in both. We know the numbers but it is not a big deal for us. We don't have the offensive players to score many goals now and we have to improve. The essence of our football is to have the ball for more time and keep it. We will try to score more goals than the last few games but we don't care too much in defence,” said a bullish Iriondo.
Star striker Sergio Castel is still doubtful for this match while Noe Acosta remains on the sidelines. Coach Antonio Iriondo will miss the services of influential midfielder Piti as well.
Both sides are plagued with similar issues to an extent but Odisha will be more desperate for the three points. Can the prospect of playing at home finally inspire the team?