Odisha vs Kerala Blasters: Preview and Prediction
The country’s premier footballing contest, the Indian Super League has recommenced its action after the January international break and has lined up high-voltage fixtures in the resuming week.
We will witness intense football in the third fixture of Match Day 13 where Odisha will be challenging table-toppers Kerala Blasters. Kalinga Stadium of Bhubaneswar which most recently hosted the entire Kalinga Super Cup saga will be the venue for this battle on Friday.
After a memorable Super Cup campaign, the Eastern Dragons have extended their stay at the Kalinga fortress for the opening league game after a halt. Sergio Lobera’s army has now shifted their focus on the league season where they are just three points away from snatching the league leaders’ crown from the Southerners.
The Tuskers acquired the pole position in the final matchday before the international break and they will have to bring their A-game to remain undisputed at the top. The Yellow and Blues led by Ivan Vukomanovic currently have 24 points obtained from 8 wins and 2 draws in 12 appearances.
Odisha recently had a marvellous Super Cup campaign on the home turf where they eventually missed out on successfully defending their title from the shortest distance. They maintained their invincible run in the tournament till the regulation time of the final and lost the trophy battle in extra time.
Before turning up for the Super Cup challenge, the Juggernauts also showcased a similar stellar show in ISL where they are unbeaten in the last eight games and their last defeat came back in October 2023.
On the other hand, the ISL table-toppers could not make it to the knockout round of the Super Cup as their campaign ended in the group stages. The Tuskers kick-started their journey with an emphatic win over Shillong Lajong but lost two consecutive matches against Jamshedpur and NorthEast United.
Two consecutive wins against title-contenders Mumbai City and Mohun Bagan Super Giant in December were the major reasons behind the Blasters’ massive jump to the pole position in the league standings.
Head to Head Record
Ever since Odisha has shifted base from the national capital city, the rivalry with the Tuskers has flamed with dragon fire. They have been engaged in nine face-offs since the start of the 2019-20 ISL season and the head-to-head record of those encounters favors the Kochi-based club by 4-2.
Interestingly, the first three battles resulted in draw outcomes and there haven’t been any points settlement since then.
Earlier this season when both of these combatants shared the battlefield at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the home team emerged victorious on the final scoreline of 2-1. Despite scoring the opening goal, two second-half goals from Dimitrios Diamantakos and Adrian Luna eventually ousted the visitors.
It was also the last instance when the Bhubaneswar-based outfit failed to attain any points in the 2023-24 ISL season as they went on an eight-match unbeaten streak afterwards.
During the international break, Kerala Blasters announced the signing of the 32-year-old Lithuanian playmaker Fedor Cernych to replace the injured skipper Adrian Luna.
However, they suffered yet another injury blow during the same period as the Ghanaian striker Kwame Peprah has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Cernych joined the Tuskers’ training camp this Sunday and is expected to make his debut against Odisha.
Bryce Miranda was loaned out to Punjab on the deadline day of the winter transfer window while Bidyashagar Singh’s contract was also cancelled by mutual agreement to allow the striker to join another ISL club.
The Juggernauts recently bid adieu to the Mizoram midfielder Isaac Vanmalsawma and subsequently replaced him with another domestic midfielder Hitesh Sharma on the roster. Hitesh who switched from Hyderabad will play a key role in Odisha’s central midfield alongside Ahmed Jahouh, Puitea, and Lenny Rodrigues.
Lobera was full of praise for the former Hyderabad midfielder and hopes the 26-year old central midfielder would come good for the club in the coming years.
“He is technically a very good player, he is intelligent and knows how to interpret the game very well. He is a player who can help us for the present and the future of this project.”
Mourtada Fall was sent off in the Super Cup final and the suspension would be carried over to the league as Carlos Delgado will be filling in for the goalscoring defender against the Kochi-based side.
Predicted Starting XIs
Odisha (4-3-3): Amrinder Singh; Amey Ranwade, Narender Gehlot, Carlos Delgado, Jerry Lalrinzuala; Ahmed Jahouh, Hitesh Sharma, Puitea; Roy Krishna, Diego Mauricio, Isak Vanlalruatfela
Kerala Blasters (4-4-2): Sachin Suresh; Pritam Kotal, Milos Drincic, Marko Leskovic, Naocha Singh; Rahul KP, Danish Farooq, Mohammed Azhar, Mohammed Aimen; Fedor Cernych, Dimitrios Diamantakos
Kerala Blasters may have had the advantage of a better league record head-to-head numbers but the key factors are still favoring the Juggernauts. Kalinga Stadium has been turned into an unreachable fortress for the home team as it has become a hard task for any ISL outfit to take points from there. Hence, it is the Odisha side that has the winning momentum and is likely to carry forward their triumphant run to the February leg.