The Juggernauts have won both of their two opening league games this season so far.

After thrashing Bengaluru FC in their season opener and winning a 10-goal thriller against SC East Bengal in their first two matches, Odisha FC will take on Kerala blasters in their third game of the season. Kiko Ramirez’s side have scored the joint-most goals (9) in the campaign, despite playing only twice.

Kerala Blasters, on the other, have struggled to find the back of the nets and have scored thrice in as many games. The Juggernauts can climb to the top of the table with a third win, depending on the result between Bengaluru FC and Mumbai City.

With his side playing free-flowing football and scoring goals for fun, head coach Kiko Ramirez is confident of a third consecutive win. However, the tactician is now letting his guard down, as he admitted it will be a tough game against the Blasters. Ahead of the next game, the Odisha FC boss interacted in the pre-match press conference, joined by centre-back Victor Mongil on Saturday.

Areas to improve

Odisha FC has done exceptionally well both defensively and offensively in their first two games. However, Ramirez wants his side to keep improving to produce more wins in their upcoming fixtures.

“Of course, we need to improve a lot of things and we are working on that in our next match. Maybe, we don’t lose concentration in some moments and don’t lose control of the game, because the last minutes were crazy (against SC East Bengal),” the Spaniard began.

Ramirez was quizzed regarding conceding from set-pieces, which he revealed the team has worked on extensively. “We worked on that (set-pieces) during the week and the team improved. Everyone has a clear idea of what we want. It is important for players to stay focused throughout the 90 minutes,” he asserted.

Watch: Odisha FC boss Kiko Ramirez and centre-back Victor Mongil speaks at the pre-match press conference

On Kerala Blasters

Kerala Blasters are yet to win a match in the ongoing ISL season. Ivan Vukomanovic’s side have drawn two matches and lost once. Asked if he is confident of a good result against the southerners, the 51-year-old felt Kerala Blasters might not have results with them, but are a difficult team to play against.

“We played a friendly match against them during the pre-season. So we know, they are good team. For now, they do not have good results, but it will be hard match as always,” he opined.

Thoughts on the ISL

Kiko Ramirez is making his debut in the ISL this season. The tactician has spent majority of his playing and managerial career in Spain. He was asked about the quality of the ISL in comparison to other leagues in Spain, including the La Liga. Kiko Ramirez, however, refused to comment on the topic as he felt it was too early for him to make a judgement.

“It is difficult to make a start at this stage. We are much focused in our team and are trying to improve. At this moment, it is difficult to make any final opinion about that,” the Odisha FC boss said.

On Odisha FC’s scoring streak

Odisha FC have scored nine goals in their first two matches in the ongoing ISL season and averages 4.5 goals per game. The Juggernauts scored six in their last game against SC East Bengal. They have scored from free-kicks, corners and open play as well.

“We’re happy about scoring goals in different ways. We keep working on that and help the players find their best version. Keep improving as individuals and also try to make more attempts so that we score,” the Spaniard explained.

“All of us discuss and decide how we are going to attack. We put our focus in the weaknesses we find in other teams,” added Ramirez. He also praised the set-piece takers in the team and said the team is making best use of that skill.

Performance of young players

Not just the foreigners, the Indian stars in the team have also performed well and impressed everyone with their show in the field. Vinit Rai and Thoiba Singh have controlled the midfield for Odisha FC. Lalruatthara and Henry Antonay, as full-backs, have make overlapping runs while Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Nandha Kumar have used their pace well in the flanks.

“I think that the young players of the team have performed really well. They are adapting to what we want from them and are understanding their positioning in the pitch. One thing that we are doing well is giving them the confidence that we trust in them and in their capabilities. Issac is performing well and he has repaid the faith,” Kiko Ramirez remarked.

Victor Mongil also spoke on the development of the young players and praised them for the character they have shown in both games. The 29-year-old also praised the league and spoke about the changes he has seen in the last two seasons here.

“The level of league is much better, it’s the eighth season,” the centre-back observed. “You can see Goa is a historic team and now they are at the last position, but it is possible to change in a few days,” Mongil concluded.

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