The Juggernauts played a thrilling 4-4 draw when both teams last clashed in Odisha.

Odisha FC are set to play at the Kalinga Stadium on Sunday, for the first time in the ISL 2022-23 season. They have had a mixed start to the campaign and would like to cash in on home support to beat Kerala Blasters. One day before the match, Odisha FC head coach Josep Gombau and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh attended a press conference in Bhubaneswar.

A few excerpts from the press conference are as follows.

Playing their first home game after two years

Josep Gombau looked visibly happy with the prospect of playing on their home turf for the first time in two years. It was quite evident from his reply. He said, “We are happy to be back at home and play in Kalinga again. We have good memories from the last time when we were here.

“All the players are excited to provide a good performance tomorrow. I hope a lot of people come to see the game and we start our winning journey here at home.”

Thoughts on Kerala Blasters

The Odisha FC head coach believes Kerala Blasters to be a very strong side. In fact, he opined that every team in this year’s ISL is strong and capable of beating any other team. He said, “Kerala is a very strong opponent. This year, I think, there are a lot of good teams. Tomorrow we are facing a side that last season played the final. They have the same coach and kept most of their players.

“I think it will be a very good game. In every game, we have our own style of playing. But also, depending on the team that we face, we change a few things to try to win. We are working hard and training well. I think our team is ready to face Kerala Blasters tomorrow.”

Advantages of playing Durand Cup

When asked to express his experience of playing in the Durand Cup, Josep Gombau said that the century-old tournament provided the teams with a platform for getting pre-season games. He said, “It was a very good experience. It provided us with five good games in the pre-season, which is something difficult to get here in India. If you don’t travel a lot, it is very difficult to play friendly games.

“The Durand Cup gave us the experience where we faced good opposition teams. It was very good to prepare for the league. We started the league with two away games against two very strong teams Jamshedpur FC and Mumbai City. We had one win and one loss. Tomorrow is a new game and I am excited to face Kerala Blasters tomorrow.”

Difference between Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters

In reply to a question enquiring about what Josep Gombau thinks are the points of difference between Mumbai City and Kerala Blasters, he stated that both teams have many similarities and subtle differences. He said, “They are two different opposition teams. Both of them play 4-4-2. But they have different styles. Kerala are a more aggressive team in terms of how they defend and how they act after losing the ball. Maybe, Kerala Blasters play a little bit more lively football than Mumbai.”

He added, “This year, particularly, I believe we have a very equal league. Every side can beat every team. You can see the results, a lot of games are decided in the last minutes. There is not a big difference between teams. I think it will be a very good league this season. As you can see a lot of teams have played three games, among which no one has won their three games. Playing at the home can also be a difference. We have two games at home. I hope with the help of local support, we can win both games.”

Strategy for tackling Kerala Blasters

While talking about how his team has prepared for Sunday’s game, Josep Gombau asserted that his team is ready to face any challenge and Kerala Blasters are no different. He stated, “We have our own way of playing. We have prepared a few attacking patterns that can clearly work for us. All we need is to try to be ourselves and We need to stick to the way we are building the club and the system that we want to play.

“We are making little adjustments in every game to make sure that we can match the opposition team. I can tell you, we are preparing for the game very seriously, the boys are working very hard, and the training sessions are very good. We come with a winning mentality and tomorrow it will be a very good game.”

Amrinder Singh’s thoughts on his new teammates

Amrinder said that it was not much difficult for him to gel in with his teammates owing to the cohesion of the team. He said, “Even though I joined the team late, it was quite easy for me to gel in with the team as we are like a family. We help each other in rectifying each other’s mistakes. I think we have a really strong squad for this season and you can expect us to do good in our upcoming fixtures.”

Amrinder Singh on the support he expects from the fans for the next game

Amrinder narrated his close ties with Odisha FC in his reply to how he is feeling to play his first home game at the Kalinga Stadium. He stated, “Firstly, I think I have a very good relationship with Odisha. I won my first professional trophy here in Odisha. I am very excited to play at home tomorrow as you get the support of the fans. If they (fans) support us tomorrow, we will be able to play brilliantly in the game.”

The Odisha FC custodian sounded optimistic while stating the positive effects that ISL has had on Indian football in general. He asserted that football is far more popular now than it was a decade back, owing to ISL. He said, “I think with the onset of the ISL, football has grown in popularity in the country. I used to stay in Mumbai. In Mumbai, even small children are nowadays aware of who are the big players associated with the ISL and with Indian football in general.

“They also know about the teams playing in the ISL. In case you asked them the same 10 years back, they did not know all such things. Now, with some more time, more people will get to know that there is good scope in Indian football. Parents would want their children to take up football as their career. So, in the upcoming years, I think Indian football will grow much bigger.”

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