Mon, 25 Sep 2023

New Delhi [India], September 16 (ANI): The 2022-23 season was the one to remember for Odisha FC for many reasons. The club qualified for the Indian Super League (ISL) playoffs for the first time since being founded in 2019. The Juggernauts later clinched their first title, emerging winners of the Super Cup followed by a victory against Gokulam Kerala FC in the Club Playoffs which secured their ticket to the group stages of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup, a first in the club's history. It was a significant improvement for the Bhubaneswar-based side who have always underperformed in the league. Buoyed by their performances from last season, Odisha FC will firmly believe that this is the season where they could end their wait for silverware in the league. And they have brought the right man to help them achieve that goal in Sergio Lobera. The Spaniard has won one ISL Cup and two League Shields during his time in India. He lifted the League Shield with FC Goa during the 2019-20 season and moved to Mumbai City FC the following season, helping the Islanders do the double.

With the right blend of young and experienced players, Odisha FC will be aiming to compete for top honours under Lobera.

Performance in ISL so farOdisha FC have struggled with consistency in the past. Under Josep Gombau, the club endured a sixth-place finish in their debut ISL season during the 2019-20 campaign.

The club hit rock bottom the season later, finishing at the bottom of the standings.

They changed their head coach for the third time in as many seasons, but missed out on the playoffs again in 2021-22, finishing seventh.

Gombau's return saw the team play to its potential and despite the Spaniard leaving the club during the 2022-23 season, the Kalinga Warriors managed to scrape to the playoffs.

Team composition and transfer dealingsOdisha FC has been heavily involved during the summer transfer window and has made some smart signings, both in terms of foreign and Indian players.

They have retained the majority of their players from last season and further strengthened their squad. Roy Krishna, Ahmed Jahouh and Mourtada Fall are the pick of the lot among their new signings, with the trio being proven assets in the league.

INs: Cy Goddard, Givson Singh, Puitea, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Roy Krishna, Lalliansanga Renthlei, Aphaoba Singh, Laldinliana Renthlei, Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall, Amey Ranawade, Lenny Rodrigues.

OUTs: Victor Rodriguez, Dylan D'Silva, Vinit Rai, Sebastian Thangmuansang, Osama Malik, Nandhakumar Sekar, Saul Crespo, Raynier Fernandes, Denechandra Meitei, Lalruatthara, Pedro Martin, Karan Amin. Key players-Diego MauricioMauricio can be a handful for even the best defenders when in full flow. He is ruthless in the final third and doesn't need too many chances to score goals. Mauricio emerged as the Golden Boot winner last season and had a big hand in helping Odisha FC make it to the playoffs. The forward could further thrive in Lobera's attacking system.

-Ahmed JahouhJahouh will reunite with Lobera for the third time in the ISL, having won one ISL Cup and two League Shields under the Spaniard. The Moroccan deep-lying playmaker has made a big impact for the previous ISL clubs with his passing and tackling abilities. Lobera will likely build his team around the Moroccan, who has established himself as one of the best all-time midfielders in the league.

-Mourtada FallFall is amongst the few foreign players to have tacked up over 100 appearances in the league. Possessing a towering frame, Fall can thrive at both ends of the pitch. He has won the League Shield twice and the ISL Cup once under Lobera and is the highest-scoring defender in ISL history.

FixturesOdisha FC will open their campaign against Chennaiyin FC at home on September 23. They will play another fixture at home against defending ISL League Shield winners Mumbai City FC at the Kalinga Stadium.

Lobera's side has three tough games lined up in October, with away trips to FC Goa and Kerala Blasters FC followed by a home match against Bengaluru FC. They will face Jamshedpur FC in their final league game before the new year. (ANI)

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