Odisha vs NorthEast United: Preview and Prediction
The caravan of the 2023 Super Cup comes to its main event where table-toppers from each group have advanced to the penultimate stages.
It is the battle between two ISL outfits who had a forgettable campaign in the 2022-23 Indian top-flight league but have managed to stage a miraculous turnaround to put up a strong contention for the silverware. Odisha will be taking on the challenge of the dominant NorthEast United side in the second semi-final clash at Payyanad Stadium of Manjeri this stunning Saturday.
Despite being one of the prime contenders to qualify for the ISL playoffs, the Juggernauts bottled in the final stages of the league round to eventually end the 2022-23 season in the sixth position. However, the Bhubaneswar-based left no stone unturned to make it to the semi-final of this edition of the Super Cup to pave their way into the knockout round with an unbeaten record.
On the other hand, the Highlanders are still in search of their first-ever club honor despite being one of the founding members of the Indian Super League. However, the tables have turned and the Guwahati-based outfit which finished at the bottom of the 2022-23 ISL standing with only a single victory has outclassed the Premiership winners Mumbai City to seal their semi-final berth in style.
Odisha stumbled upon their opening 2023 Super Cup fixture and somehow managed to hold the neighbourhood rivals East Bengal for a 1-1 draw after a late equalizer from Nandhakumar Sekar.
The frustrated outcome alarmed the roster with a wake-up call for the Eastern Dragons as they went to defeat the heavyweights Hyderabad and Aizwal to stage a remarkable turnaround.
Highlanders will be turning up for the semi-final clash with high spirits after registering a thumping 6-3 win which not consummated their group stage journey on high but also boosted their goal difference for the eventual qualification.
The Highlanders skipper Wilmar Jordan was the Hero of the Night bagging four goals (27′, 43′, 51, 70) to register the second hat-trick of the 2023 Super Cup edition after Ansumana Kromah.
Odisha has squared off the Northeastern Whites nine times across all competitions since moving out from the National Capital to the Temple City. The Kalinga Warriors are not only leading the head-to-head record of those encounters by 6-2 but also thriving on a winning streak of five straight games.
The triumphant run of the Eastern Dragons includes memorable 6-0 heroics at the 2022 Daurand Cup competition which was also the first competitive appearance of both of them in the ongoing 2022-23 season. The Highlanders are craving a breakthrough against Odisha as their last victory came back in February 2021 when the roster was under the regime of Khalid Jamil.
Odisha travelled to Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Guwahati for the most recent chapter of this rivalry and returned to their fortress having three points in the bank. Nandhakumar Sekar, Victor Rodriguez and Diego Mauricio contributed one goal each in the 3-1 triumph while the only breakthrough for the Guwahati-based club came through a successful penalty conversion by Wilmar Jordan in injury time.
After making hefty changes for the Aizawl fixture, Odisha head coach Clifford Miranda turned back to his full strength for the do-or-die encounter with Hyderabad and eventually succeeded.
Miranda continued the strategic approach set by Josep Gombau and has entrusted the 3-4-3 formation throughout the journey. He is expected to avoid any unnecessary changes to the starting XI from the last group fixture in order to sustain further the winning momentum.
NorthEast United is going to play their second game within the span of four days and has got relatively lesser rest than the Juggernauts whose last group game was on Monday. Hence, the Highlanders’ interim manager Floyd Pinto will have to be careful with the fitness issues if he wants to make the least amount of changes.
Jithin MS who scored the final goal against Churchill Brothers is knocking on the door of starting eleven however, the Kerala-based winger may not get the nod ahead of Emil Benny for the same position.
Predicted Starting XIs
Odisha (3-4-3): Amrinder Singh; Narender Gehlot, Carlos Delgado ©, Osama Malik; Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Thoiba Singh, Princeton Rebello, Sahil Panwar; Nandhakumar Sekar, Diego Mauricio, Victor Rodriguez
NorthEast United (4-2-3-1): Mirshad Michu; Tondonba Singh, Mashoor Shereef, Alisher Kholmurodov, Joe Zoherliana; Mohammed Irshad, Joseba Beitia; Gani Nigam, Romain Philippoteaux, Emil Benny; Wilmar Jordan ©
Odisha has a glorious record against the NorthEast United side in recent times however, the Highlanders are still having an edge over their counterparts owing to their incredible current form.
It is highly speculated that the Manjeri battlefield is going to witness yet another rainy night of goals. Floyd Pinto and the Kalinga Warriors can only aim for the final ticket after finding the solution to a master question named Wilmar Jordan who has scored a whopping tally of six goals over the course of the last 180 minutes.