2024 Kalinga Super Cup Matchday 1 Preview: Defending champions Odisha to face Bengaluru and More

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Inter Kashi trounced Rajasthan United 5-0 in the playoff for the 2024 Kalinga Super Cup

The 2023-24 Indian Super League season has paused and the 2024 Kalinga Super Cup is here to the delight of Indian football fans to satiate their hunger for watching their favorite clubs in action.

On Monday, Inter Kashi thrashed Rajasthan United in a five-star performance winning 5-0 comfortably to become the 16th participating team of the tournament.

With a place in the inaugural ACL 2 Premilinary Stage up for grabs, the teams will be leaving it all out on the pitch during the 2024 Kalinga Super Cup. While Group A is full of potential for derbies of two different cities, Group D might be the most closely fought with three consistent ISL sides and one promising I-League club going head to head in the single round-robin format.

Group A

Group A matches will kick off the tournament officially as a double-header will be played on January 9. East Bengal will face Hyderabad as two teams in the lower half of the ISL table will be focusing on the cup competition for the time being as the match kicks off at 2 pm on Tuesday.

In the last five fixtures, the Torchbearers are unbeaten collecting a total of 7 points from five fixtures with a solitary victory against NorthEast United was accompanied by draws against Chennaiyin, Punjab, Mumbai City, and Odisha.

On the other hand, the Nizams have lost four of their last five matches, only managing a draw against NorthEast United as Hyderabad sits bottom of the league standings. The off-field trouble for the club has made things a bit more complicated and it would take a huge effort for Thangboi Singto’s side to top a group consisting of Mohun Bagan Super Giant and East Bengal.

In the 7:30 pm kickoff on Tuesday, Mohun Bagan SG will face Sreenidi Deccan and Antonio Lopez Habas will be hoping to start his new reign with a win while the I-League club would be relishing the challenge against a side that has lost three of their previous fixtures.

Kiyan Nassiri would play a crucial role for MBSG in the absence of senior Indian players

With seven MBSG players selected for India’s squad for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, the Mariners will be fielding a weakened starting XI as Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Vishal Kaith, Liston Colaco, Subasish Bose, Deepak Tangri, and Manvir Singh away with the national team while Anwar Ali and Ashique Kuruniyan are still nursing long-term injuries.

Sreenidi has scored the joint-most goals in the 2023-24 I-League campaign so far and sits comfortably in the third position which should give them some confidence as they are the highest-ranked I-League side taking part in the cup competition.

Group B

The action would return to Pitch 1 of Kalinga Stadium at 2 pm on January 10 as ISL table-toppers Kerala Blasters face Shillong Lajong, a side sitting in the fifth position in the second-tier league competition of the country.

Since their defeat to Goa on December 3, the Kochi-based side has won three of their matches against Punjab, Mumbai City, and Mohun Bagan SG. With Pritam Kotal on international duty, Ruivah Hormipam and Prabir Das should expect starts in defense while the pair of Dimitrios Diamantakos and Kwame Peprah would be the main men up front.

Shillong Lajong is not one of the most well-drilled teams in the competition and it would be a tough proposition to start against the Blasters on Wednesday. In the 7:30 pm kickoff though, two comparatively well-matched sides, NorthEast United and Jamshedpur placed sixth and tenth in the 2023-24 league standings but only separated by 3 points will go at loggerheads.

After starting brightly, the Highlanders fell off the cliff in December with demoralizing defeats against East Bengal and Mohun Bagan SG was complimented by draws against Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Goa. The story wasn’t much different at Jamshedpur which made them part ways with Scott Cooper and install Khalid Jamil as the head coach for the remainder of the season.

Group C

Mumbai City will be facing Gokulam Kerala in their first Super Cup 2024 fixture at 2 pm on Thursday and Petr Kratky will be looking forward to deploying Rostyn Griffiths, Tiri, Yoell van Nieff, Abdenasser El Khayati, Greg Stewart, and Jorge Pereyra Diaz all at once to win his first trophy in India. 

Placed at sixth in the I-League standings, Gokulam could spring a surprise in the cup competition as head coach Domingo Aramas would be fielding the talented Edu Bedia and Komron Tursunov in support of the 2023-24 I-League top-scorer Alex Sanchez.

Shifting the focus back to the main pitch of Kalinga Stadium, Chennaiyin and Punjab will be competing for the three points at 7:30 pm later on the same day as the Marina Machans would be looking to reclaim their glory days back under Owen Coyle’s leadership.

The Northern Shers have adapted to the highest level of football in the country pretty well over the last three months and should be anticipating a better cup campaign after only managing a draw in three Durand Cup matches in August 2023.

Group D

Noah Sadaoui will be the star player for Goa in the 2024 Kalinga Super Cup campaign

The only undefeated side in the 2023-24 ISL season, Goa would be looking to kick off Group D in style against Inter Kashi who sent a warning to the top sides that they are not going to sit back and defend with a 5-0 in the playoff qualifier for the tournament.

Under Manolo Marquez’s leadership, Goa would be fielding their best starting XI apart from Sandesh Jhingan, Brandon Fernandes, and Victor Rodriguez. While the first two have joined India’s cause in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 campaign, the Spaniard was ruled out of the ongoing season.

Inter Kashi also has a plethora of talented players like Jordan Lamela, Mario Barco, Fran Gomes, Jackichand Singh, and Edmund Lalrindika set to threaten the goal of the opponents.

At 7:30 pm on Friday, the action would once again shift to the main pitch as two ISL sides, Odisha and Bengaluru will close the Matchday 1 action with a replay of the 2023 Indian Super Cup Final where the Juggernauts triumphed courtesy of a Diego Mauricio brace.

Since then, Odisha has strengthened immensely by appointing Sergio Lobera at the helm and adding the quality of Roy Krishna, Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall, Puitea, Cy Goodard, Pranjal Bhumij, and Amey Ranawade to an already strong squad. The Kalinga Warriors are placed third in the ISL table and have also qualified for the AFC Cup Inter-Zone semi-final making it a battle to fight on all three fronts till the end of the season.

On the other hand, the Blues have been in a rut in the 2023-24 ISL season which finally resulted in Simon Grayson leaving the club and Gerard Zaragoza being installed as the new head coach which has brought about optimism around the club and four points from the last two ISL fixtures against Jamshedpur and NorthEast United.

Without the trio of skipper Sunil Chhetri, Suresh Singh Wangjam, and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, this might be too tough a task for Bengaluru against the likes of Odisha and Goa who are set to take the competition by storm.