Josep Gombau’s men have just two away wins this season, one of which arrived against ten-man tenth-placed Hyderabad FC ….
Odisha FC have been the surprise entrants into the race for a top-four in the last few weeks after starting off on the wrong foot. With four straight wins under their belt, Odisha collected 21 points so far this season, two more than fifth-placed Mumbai City FC.
Their resurgence has been quite a story and they could go on to add more flair to it. Josep Gombau’s men had won just one game until the tenth of December and were struggling to find feet. But three home wins in three games at the Kalinga Stadium have revived their season and a win against Bengaluru FC at the Kanteerava Stadium could also render them strong contenders for the top spot.
However, the Spanish gaffer knows that his side has a mammoth task ahead of them on Wednesday, given they have performed poorly away from home this season. In their last away game, Odisha edged past Hyderabad FC in a closely fought affair. That it arrived against a side that collected just five points this season and played half the game with ten men adds very little credibility to claims suggesting that Odisha are finding their feet in away games.
Their previous away win arrived against Mumbai back in October when Aridane Santana’s brace helped his side down the Islanders 4-2. The Spaniard will be crucial against the defending champions, given he has been one of the few players who has performed better away from home. Six of the nine goals Aridane has scored this season has arrived in an away games. Odisha will need him to add to his impressive tally, should they fancy themselves at the Kanteerava.
Bengaluru are a tough side to beat at home. But Mumbai showed earlier this season it’s not impossible. The Blues suffered their first home defeat in about two years when they succumbed to the Islanders in a five-goal thriller at the Kanteerava Stadium. This statistic quantifies the size of the task Odisha need to undertake to maintain their winning streak.
Xisco Hernandez, a former Bengaluru player, happens to be in tremendous form for Odisha. The Spaniard knows the pitch, knows the crowd, and most importantly, knows his opponents. Having shared a midfield with Dimas Delgado and Erik Paartalu, Xisco will be well aware of what to expect.
Despite crucial wins against FC Goa and Jamshedpur FC in their last two games at home, the Blues looked tactless during their 2-0 defeat to Mumbai last week. On the contrary, Odisha are in the best moment of their season, with all key players in good form. This would make it the best time for Odisha to claim their first win at Bengaluru.
A win over the reigning champions could provide a massive mental boost to Gombau’s men ahead of the challenging ties against Goa and ATK that follow. Clearly, the next three games could define Odisha’s season. With Mumbai picking up steam right on their heels, Odisha will be playing for more than just the three points on Wednesday.