Jamshedpur, Nov 30 : Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera and his brigade will hope to break down the defensive resolve of Jamshedpur FC in the Steel City as the two teams square off at the JRD Tata Sports Complex in their Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 fixture on Friday.
Coaches who come with a reputation to succeed are always eager to assert their authority early on in their tenures.
There have been very few tacticians with a more illustrious resume than Lobera in the Indian top-tier league. His return to the country with Odisha FC was highly anticipated, but the Juggernauts got off the mark in the league on a slightly shaky note, losing twice in the first six games. The battle for the top spot in the ISL table is of very slight margins, and dropping eight points (W 3, L 2, D 1) already might have already put Lobera in a spot of bother.
However, the Spaniard must be brimming with belief in his boys after they brushed aside Mohun Bagan Super Giant by a brilliant 5-2 margin in their AFC Cup encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday. With five different scorers getting their name on the sheet, will this be the victory that fuels the surge of this Odisha FC season? Let’s find out.
Jamshedpur FC have conceded only seven goals this season, and whilst that defensive solidity deserves applause, it’s their inefficiency moving forward that is the root cause of their troubles thus far. However, the team can draw confidence from their superlative outings against the Juggernauts.
They have won five times against Odisha FC in ISL history – the second most victories that they have recorded against a team after NorthEast United FC (6).
More importantly, Jamshedpur FC have also netted 19 goals against the Bhubaneswar-based club, which is the joint-most times they have struck against any ISL team (alongside Mumbai City FC). Whilst every season throws up different challenges altogether, Scott Cooper can surely reflect on what has been done right by his club in their former outings against Odisha FC to derive similar impressive outcomes this time around.
Lobera has historically struggled against Jamshedpur FC, albeitfor varying reasons with different clubs. He has won merely twice in seven encounters against them, which amounts to a 29% winning rate – his second lowest against any team after FC Goa (20%).
They are the second highest-scoring team in the league (11), and a seasoned frontline has helped them take their chances consistently. They have the best differential between expected goals (6.81) and actual goals scored (11) in the current campaign (+4.19 xG value), which suggests that Jamshedpur FC should be wary of letting any good chances come their way.
Odisha FC did not merely win against the Mariners in Kolkata in the AFC Cup; they held total control over the proceedings against one of the strongest sides in the country. That speaks volumes of the immediacy with which Lobera has imprinted his ideas within his team. The key should be to replicate that in the league level so that they can succeed concurrently at both the national and Asian stages.
Jeremy Manzorro of Jamshedpur FC has recorded a 90% dribbles success rate in the ISL 2023-24, with the playmaker donning an equally important role as that of Alen Stevanovic in directing the creative moves of Jamshedpur FC.
Whilst he has not recorded a goal contribution yet, there have been plenty of times when Manzorro has come close to finding a breakthrough for his side and so will his intentions be against the sturdy Odisha FC backline spearheaded by Mourtada Fall. Manzorro needs to begin translating the chances that he has been creating in tangible outputs to address the offensive concerns of Jamshedpur FC.
Jerry Mawihmingthanga of Odisha FC started the season splendidly, netting twice in the first couple of games. The winger has been sharper, and involved in a greater capacity in the final third ever since Lobera took over the reins at Odisha FC.
However, he will have it in the back of the mind to not let his form fade away as the season progresses. Jerry has created a goal-scoring opportunity per game on an average so far, and his quick footwork also enables him to earn fouls near the box for his team. The 26-year-old can work his way around tight spaces around the Jamshedpur FC backline and it will be interesting to see how his performance unfolds in the coming game.
“You can’t always expect your team to keep clean sheets. We defended well in the last game but a little bit of fatigue got in towards the end. What did Goa really create other than direct, long balls? They got behind, there was a little skirmish and these things can happen towards the end of a game,” Jamshedpur FC tactician Scott Cooper said in the pre-match press conference.
“Indian football is growing every day. We are in a good position. We are working here with a lot of excitement to improve the level of Indian football. We have very good players. It’s very important to compete well not only in our club competitions but also internationally. It’s special for us to play in the AFC Cup, because we are not only representing Odisha, but we are also representing India,” Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera reflected on his team’s aforementioned win ahead of their ISL fixture against Jamshedpur FC.