The Juggernauts are yet to register their maiden win of the season.
The Indian Super League (ISL) will witness an important game on Thursday, as Kerala Blasters lock horns with Odisha FC at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim, Goa. With six points from eight matches, the Yellow Army are in ninth place on the points table, while their opponents are languishing at the bottom spot with just two points.
Both teams have had relatively poor outings so far this season. Kerala Blasters have won just one game, while the Juggernauts are yet to register their first victory of the season. Therefore, it goes without saying that both sides have a lot to prove and will look to put an end to their miserable run on Thursday.
Kerala Blasters have managed to gather just six points from eight games so far, drawing against NorthEast United, Chennaiyin FC and SC East Bengal, while losing to ATK Mohun Bagan, FC Goa, Bengaluru FC and Mumbai City. Their lone win came against Hyderabad FC on December 27.
While much was expected from the side prior to the start of the season, the fact of the matter is that they have failed to meet those expectations so far. However, it also needs to be said that they have managed to show glimpses of their ability in almost every game. But, these moments of brilliance have been few and far between and it will take much more to start getting positive results in the league.
This season, the Yellow Army went six matches without a win before beating HFC 2-0. Afterwards, they faced Mumbai City who inflicted upon them their fourth loss of the campaign. Against winless Odisha FC, they have a golden opportunity to return to winning ways.
For Odisha, facing KBFC is yet another trial by fire, given their current position on the league table. With just two points from eight matches so far, they are the only team in the league yet to win a single game.
After a defeat to HFC in their opener, they showed great promise by holding Jamshedpur FC to a draw in the next game. But, it has gone downhill for head coach Stuart Baxter and his players since, as multiple issues like the inability to find the right team combination deprived them of positive results.
However, when compared to the other teams in the league, facing Kerala Blasters should be easier for the Juggernauts, at least on paper. They can look to capitalize on the Kochi-based outfit’s tendency to make mistakes in crucial parts of the pitch, as they aim for the three points on Thursday.
There are a few injury issues in the Kerala Blasters squad, with the likes of Gary Hooper and Bakary Kone suffering from muscular problems. Both players were sidelined for the past couple of games and while they may return to the matchday squad against Odisha FC, a starting XI spot is a different matter.
Albino Gomes, Jordan Murray, Rahul KP, Sahal Abdul Samad and Vicente Gomez have more or less cemented their place in the KBFC starting XI.
In Odisha’s case, Marcelinho’s place in the starting XI continues to be a subject of doubt, whereas the rest of the foreign contingent seem to have confirmed their place in the squad.
Fans can expect the usual 4-3-3 system to be employed by the Juggernauts, with both Manuel Onwu and Diego Mauricio starting together in a bid to provide varying aspects to their attack.
This being OFC’s second campaign in the ISL, both teams have faced each other only twice so far. Both matches ended as draws.
While the first game between the two sides was a dull goalless affair in November 2019, the second in February 2020 was much more entertaining with both teams scoring four goals each.
Gomes; Nishu, Sandeep, Costa, Jessel; Jeakson, Gomez; Rahul, Pereyra, Sahal; Murray.
Arshdeep; Sarangi, Tratt, Taylor, Antonay; Jesuraj, Rai, Bora; Jerry, Onwu, Mauricio.
Man to Watch
Vicente Gomez (Kerala Blasters)
The Spanish midfielder has played in seven matches so far and has clocked 626 minutes on the pitch. He is one of the few midfielders who have registered over 290 successful passes this ISL and has also notched a goal as well as an assist. Although he initially played as a ‘Regista’ or a defensive midfielder, he later shifted to a box-to-box role which has brought out the best in him.
With Sergio Cidoncha ruled out of the season due to injury and defensive midfielder Juande Lopez coming in as his replacement, the 32-year-old is to continue in the starting XI as a box-to-box midfielder. His penchant to play forward passes for the likes of Sahal, Murray and Rahul, along with his impressive shot-taking abilities make him the man to watch.
Cole Alexander (Odisha FC)
Just like KBFC, the defensive and attacking departments of Odisha have also failed to rise up to the occasion so far this season. That said, the battle between both sides is likely to be fought most closely in midfield, where Cole Alexander holds the key for the Juggernauts.
The South African has played the full 90 minutes in each of his seven appearances so far and has attempted 273 passes, with an accuracy of 73.99%. He also has a goal to his name, but his most vital contributions have come during defending including 33 tackles, 17 interceptions, eight clearances and 10 blocks.
Did You Know?
- Odisha FC have scored the least (6) and conceded the most goals (14) among all ISL sides so far this season.
- Since the 2015-16 ISL season, no player has saved more penalties (3) in a single season than Kerala Blasters shot-stopper Albino Gomes.
- Both NorthEast United and FC Goa attempted 18 shots against Odisha FC, the most in a single game so far this season.
The match between Kerala Blasters and Odisha FC is set to be telecast live on Star Sports 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 2 SD & HD (English), Star Sports Hindi 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 3, Star Gold 2 (Hindi), Asianet Plus (Malayalam), and Star Sports regional channels (in Bangla, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi). It will also be streamed live on Disney+ Hotstar VIP and Premium and Jio TV.