Odisha vs Kerala Blasters: Preview and Prediction
The Group D table-toppers Odisha will be summoned by the challengers Kerala Blasters in Match No. 4 of their respective pool.
It will be a legendary battle as the Juggernauts would want to extend their stay at the top while Blasters are still in search of their first win of this Durand Cup edition. An action-packed saga between two Indian Super League will be played at the centralised venue of Group D, Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium of Guwahati.
Odisha had a memorable debut game at the prestigious Durand Cup tournament where they went on to net six goals and conceded none in their appearance. The Odisha gaffer Josep Gombau issued a statement to all other ISL outfits participating in this competition, that they are here to do nothing but win. The Kalinga Warriors will be a step closer to the quarter-final round qualification if they manage to replicate the same performance against Kerala too.
Kerala Blasters’ side featuring reserve players displayed an impressive performance against the second-division side Sudeva Delhi. Just a couple of days ago, they welcomed the arrival of Bengaluru striker Bidyashagar Singh and also named him in the squad touring UAE. The 24-year-old loanee who was the top scorer of the 2020-21 I-League will stay with the Tuskers on a season-long loan.
Odisha thrashed the home team NorthEast United in their debut Durand Cup game on a one-sided scoreline of 6-0. The youth side of the Highlanders looked helpless against the Kalinga Warriors who overpowered them fielding a full-strength eleven. The 25-year-old Indian winger Jerry Mawihmingthanga who scored a brace inside the first 40 minutes received Man of the Match for his goal-scoring heroics.
On the other hand, the ISL Season 8 runners-up had a tough outing in the opening fixture where they shared one point each with Sudeva Delhi. The scoreline remained neutral at the full-time whistle as the battle consummated in a 1-1 settlement. The young Manipuri striker Mangku Kuki who scored the equaliser goal for Sudeva in the 45th minute was felicitated with the Player of the Match honour.
Head to Head record
The two combatants have quarrelled into the Indian top-flight league six times to date and interestingly, half of their clashes turned out to be resultless outcomes. The current head-to-head count slightly favours the Tuskers by 2-1 however, Odisha can dismantle this tiny lead after the forthcoming fixture. Both of Kerala’s wins against the Juggernauts came in the 2021-22 ISL season where they completed the first-ever double of this rivalry.
Kerala registered a comfortable victory by 2-0 over the Purple Army in their most recent face-off at the ISL stage. That triumph played a pivotal role in clearing the playoff route for the Kochi-based club. Full-back Nishu Kumar and the holding midfielder Harmanjot Khabra were the Blasters who netted one goal each and secured three points for the Tuskers at Vasco’s Tilak Maidan.
The KBFC’s last five fixtures at IGA Stadium resulted in two draws, two defeats and a solitary win. Their last and only victory came back in the 2017-18 ISL season where Wes Brown’s 28th-minute winner helped them to emerge victorious against NorthEast United at Guwahati. Meanwhile, Odisha has only played twice at this venue in which they lost the first game and won the most recent one.
In the absence of Kerala’s first-team coaching staff, the Polish gaffer Tomasz Pawel Tchorz who serves them as U-18 side coach is currently the in-charge of the participating roster. The rumors of the first team returning to India have been rejected after the club’s official release which states that they will continue to train in Dubai despite the cancellation of their UAE pre-season games.
Subha Ghosh who has returned to the Kerala outfit after completion of his East Bengal loan stint was on the bench in the previous fixture as fans are hyped up to see more from the young forward. The absence of Michael Soosairaj raised questions on the team management as the winger did not even make it to the substitute bench against NorthEast United.
Josep Gombau seemed happy with the performance of his boys especially the central defenders Narender Gahlot and Carlos Delgado who paired up quite well. The Spanish defender Delgado made his first appearance in Odisha colors in the opening game and will continue to wear the captain’s armband with pride.
Predicted Starting XIs
Odisha FC (4-3-3): Lalthuammawia Ralte; Shubham Sarangi, Narender Gahlot, Carlos Delgado, Sahil Panwar; Saul Crespo, Raynier Fernandes, Isaac Vanmalsawma; Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Diego Mauricio, Nandhakumar Sekar
Kerala Blasters (4-4-2): Sachin Suresh; Marvaan Hussain, Tejas Krishna, Muhammed Basith, Aritra Das; Muhammed Azgar, Vibin Mahanan, Gaurav Kankonkar, Roshan Gigi; Muhammed Ajsal, Muhammed Aimen
Odisha FC has much brighter chances to win this encounter due to the heavy star-power in their Durand Cup roster. They have an unmatchable strength on paper and are also hot favourites to top Group D and advance to the knockout round. Hence it will be a tough task for the young boys of Kerala Blasters to stop the triumph-chariot of the Juggernauts and register their first win of the 2022 Durand Cup.