The head coach also spoke about the Super Cup’s new format.

Odisha FC are set to get back to action after a one-week gap to take on ATK Mohun Bagan on Saturday. It will be Josep Gombau’s side’s second away fixture in a row. The team will be desperate to get back to winning ways as they lost their last game against Bengaluru FC.

Consequently, the team has to look over the shoulder on the points table as teams like Bengaluru and Chennaiyin are making a strong bid to finish among the top six. Hence, Saturday’s game is of immense importance for the Juggernauts who will go all-out to score three points.

Prior to the game, head coach Josep Gombau attended the pre-match press conference. Edited excerpts from the conference are as follows.

On the importance of the last six games of the season

Josep Gombau expressed his thoughts on the importance of the last six league games of the season, especially in regard to the team’s dream of finishing in the top six. He said, “We had this gap after our game in Bengaluru. Now, it is time to concentrate on the last six games that we have. These are the most important games of the season. We will try to finish in a good position and secure our playoff spot. This is the aim of the team, the players, and the coaching staff. We are working hard to finish the last six games in a good way, starting on Saturday in Kolkata.”

The Spaniard added, “We will go game-by-game. We are now completely focused on Saturday’s game. After that, we will think about the next one. We will have to play four games in 14 days, which is almost one game every three days. It will be a tough time, but the good thing is that we have the whole team available. Every player is hungry. If we want to be successful, we will have to use a lot of players within this short period. We will try to make a lot of rotations and have fresh players play these games.”

On ATK Mohun Bagan coming into the game on the back of a draw

Gombau expressed his opinion on the quality of ATK Mohun Bagan. He also stated his thoughts on the side’s last game against Chennaiyin FC.

“ATK Mohun Bagan are a very good team. They have one of the best squads in the league with a lot of good Indian players. Their foreigners are good too. I think in their last game, Chennaiyin did very well. I liked how Chennaiyin were playing. It was not an easy game for them (ATK Mohun Bagan). I expect it will not be an easy game for them on Saturday. It will be a very equal one.”

On the inclusion of Aniket Jadhav and Isak Vanruatfela

The Odisha FC mentor informed that Issac Vanlalruatfela and Aniket Jadhav have been added to the squad. He elaborated on the reason behind adding Aniket to the squad and how he plans to utilise him going forward.

Aniket is a very good addition. He is a player who has already made a big statement in the league as he was the winner last season with Hyderabad. He played many games in the first XI of Hyderabad. By signing him, we are looking for more strength in his position. I want to have four wingers as it is a position where the intensity is very high. Unluckily, in the last seven or eight games, we did not have a pure replacement (on the wings).

He added, “Isak had to go home. At moments, I saw my wingers get tired on the field. Maybe in the last 20 minutes, you need some extra power and we did not have it. In many such games, the result did not come at the end maybe because I did not have that strength in the team. Bringing Aniket will give us what we are looking for.”

About Isak Vanlalruatfela, the head coach said, “Also, Isak has come back. I believe a lot in this kid. He has a lot of talent. For the last six games, now we have two very good wingers who can replace Jerry (Mawihmingthanga) and Nandha (Kumar Sekar) if the game requires it. Anyone of the players can replace them. The addition of these players will also help us to follow a practice of rotation for the next six games as we have four players on the wings, Nandha, Jerry, Isak, and Aniket, and Pedro and Diego on the front.”

Gombau’s thoughts on the format of the recently announced Super Cup

Josep Gombau shared his opinion on the format of the Super Cup slated to take place in April. He said, “The Super Cup is a big tournament. I saw the new format and it will be very tough because there are groups of four teams and only one team will go ahead. This means you will not have a chance to miss a game or have a bad game. All the coaching staff and players will have to take a lot of responsibility. Whenever we put on the jersey of Odisha, we try to give our 120 per cent. Now as they have opened the spot for AFC Cup qualification, I think there is something very big to play for.”

He added, “We will first take the six remaining games of ISL with the aim to be in the playoffs and try to do well. After that, we will approach the Super Cup with the same mentality. We will try to win the tournament and get the AFC spot.”

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