ISL: Odisha hosts Mumbai City in battle for top four

Odisha FC will leave nothing to chance as it battles with Mumbai City FC, possibly its most direct competitor for the play-off spot in the league.

Aridane Santana scored a brace as Odisha defeated Mumbai 4-2 away from home earlier this season. (File Photo)   -  ISL MEDIA

Odisha FC will leave nothing to chance as it battles with Mumbai City FC, possibly its most direct competitor for the play-off spot in the Indian Super League, at the Kalinga Stadium here on Saturday.

After starting the season with away fixtures and then playing a couple in Pune as its home stadium was getting ready, Josep Gombau's team has notched two home wins in a row at the Kalinga Stadium. Odisha edged Jamshedpur 2-1 before defeating Chennaiyin 2-0 in its last outing.
 
On the other hand, Mumbai City's three-game winning run was brought to a halt as it suffered a defeat at the hands of an in-form ATK side in its last game. Mumbai has lost only once in its last seven fixtures and this run of form has seen it climb to the fourth spot with 16 points from 11 matches.

Odisha has been inconsistent and has not been able to find a rhythm yet, but is not far behind, at fifth with 15 points. Odisha has looked brilliant at times, playing attractive football, but has been found wanting at the back.

Home fixture a boost for Odisha

Aridane Santana scored a brace as Odisha defeated Mumbai 4-2 away from home earlier this season.Ahead of the reverse fixture, Gombau felt that being able to play at Odisha's home ground should give the players extra motivation to do well.

"It is a very important game for us. It is a six-point game, it is for the top four. Tomorrow (Saturday) two-thirds of the league will be over.  We are confident, we are working hard. The boys are hungry and I think we can do a good job.

"I think for a long time we did not play home games. We played 10 games away. Then to come here and get the support of the people here is great. Finally, we are playing at home and it is extra motivation. We are happy to be here,” said Gombau.

Mumbai focused on itself

Mumbai assistant coach Marco Leite believes it is important to focus on themselves more than their opponent and is confident that Mumbai players can do a good job against a top-four rival.

"They have a very good team. They do simple things but very effectively. They have players that can unbalance the matches but so do we. They have their weapons and we have ours. They have quality players, both foreigners and Indian, but we are not concerned specifically about any player but the entire team,” said Leite.

The Indian players of Odisha, Vinit Rai and Jerry Mawihmingthanga in particular, have been stand-out performers, with the latter scoring two goals and registering four assists from the wings. Aridane has been very effective in the attacking third and has six goals and an assist to his name. Add Xisco Hernandez' technique to the midfield and Odisha has a side that can take full control of a game.

The injury to Paulo Machado is a huge setback for the visitor as he is a key player in midfield. However, in-form striker Amine Chermiti and last season's top scorer Modou Sougou, who recently scored a brace to break his duck, will look to feed off crosses from the likes of Diego Carlos who has threatened from wide areas.

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