Thursday’s clash will be between the two teams who occupy the bottom spots on the ISL standings.
Odisha FC will take on Kerala Blasters at the Fatorda Stadium on Thursday evening. This will be a clash of the wooden-spoon holders, with the two teams occupying the last couple of spots in the Indian Super League (ISL) points table. Both teams have had underwhelming campaigns so far and they will be hoping to restore some parity as they head into the final quarter of the season.
There is little significance to this encounter, considering both the teams are fairly out of contention for the playoffs spots. However, none of the games can be taken lightly in the ISL. Every match is an opportunity for out-of-form coaches to display their potential, younger players to step up to the plate and make an impact and so on.
Odisha FC have had nothing going their way this season. Their campaign started beaming with optimism, followng an influx of a host of exciting players coupled with bringing onboard a seasoned tactician. Now, all the aspirations have fallen apart for the Juggernauts. Barring the odd spectacle, none of the starlets have set the stage afire yet. It’s not their fault; all the young lads require time to get in the groove of such a grueling competition. But, it was perhaps Stuart Baxter’s dismissal post his controversial remarks after the match against Jamshedpur FC that has hurt the club most.
There was little panic despite the team’s poor performances throughout the campaign, as the management seemed to believe in Baxter to lead a long-term project at the club. However, with the Englishman gone, the team are staring at the final quarter of the campaign with no real aim in sight. Their best bet could be to actively go on the lookout for a new coach, see off the rest of the season on a positive note and already start building from scratch for ISL 2021-22.
On the other hand, Kerala Blasters have endured another disappointing season, potentially failing to make it to the top four again. However, they still might have an outside chance if they manage to secure four consecutive victories from hereon. That will mean that the Blasters will finish with 27 points, which still might not be enough but could very faintly keep them in the fray for qualification. However, that seems wishful thinking currently as the team has won only thrice so far.
Kerala have already had nine coaches in seven seasons. They look set to hire a 10th one if this campaign concludes the way it has played out so far. Kibu Vicuna has lagged behind on several fronts, including zeroing on a consistent starting XI. He will be eager to hold onto the job and embark on a slightly lengthened project, which will also mark a shift in Kerala’s approach.
Odisha FC have no new fitness concerns. However, Steven Taylor will return in this game from his one-match suspension.
Facundo Pereyra will stay out due to a long-term injury.
Interestingly, Odisha’s only win in 15 matches this season came against Kerala Blasters in early January. The team had triumphed 4-2 over Vicuna’s men. Otherwise, the two clubs have faced each other thrice until now. Odisha have won once, whereas two games have ended in a draw.
Odisha FC: Arshdeep (GK); Sarangi, Tratt, Taylor, Pradhan; Rai, Ramfangzauva, Alexander; Jerry, Onwu, Mauricio.
Kerala Blasters: Albino (gk); Sandeep, Jeakson, Costa, Nishu; Juande, Vicente; Rahul, Hooper, Sahal; Murray.
Men to Watch
Paul Ramfangzauva (Odisha FC)
Paul Ramfangzauva has emerged as a talent to watch out for Odisha FC. The 21-year-old can be very tenacious in midfield, particularly in terms of restoring possession and initiating attacking moves from the middle of the park. In three matches, he has won 2.3 ground duels per game and made 56% accurate passes in the opposition’s half. Ramfangzauva oozes energy, but needs to work on getting further involved in proceedings.
Speaking about the young lad, Odisha’s interim coach Gerald Peyton said after the last match, “He’s a very special player for me. He’s got good vision on the ball. He looks to turn the game. He looks to go at people and attack. His first shot that hit the post was a really good one.”
Rahul KP (Kerala Blasters)
Rahul KP’s potential was never in doubt. However, he’s managed to convert some of that talent into visible efficiency now. The 20-year-old has started nine games this season and notched three goals. He netted in consecutive matches against Bengaluru FC and FC Goa in January, which must have further enhanced his confidence.
The forward has blistering pace and has taken 1.3 shots per game on an average in his 13 appearances this campaign. He does the dirty work defensively and has impressively registered 2.2 tackles in each match too. There have been concerns over his form tapering off in the previous two games and Rahul will be keen to get rid of those issues by making an impact against Odisha.
Did You Know?
- Kerala Blasters (27) and Odisha FC (25) have respectively conceded the most goals in the league this season.
- If Kibu Vicuna fails to lead Kerala to the playoffs, it will be the fourth consecutive season that the club will miss out on the topfour spots.
- Odisha’s new interim coach Gerald Peyton had a lengthy 15-year-long stint as the goalkeeping coach of Arsenal FC under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger.
The match between Odisha FC and Kerala Blasters 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.