Odisha FC have a mountain to climb in AFC Cup tie
13 Mar 2024

AIFF Media Team

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha FC face an uphill task as they take on Australian side Central Coast Mariners FC in the AFC Cup 2023-24 Inter-Zonal Semi-Final 2nd Leg at the Kalinga Stadium on Thursday, March 14, 2024. The kick-off is scheduled for 3:30 PM IST.

The match will be broadcast live on Sports 18 Network and streamed live on FanCode. Also, the match will be available for streaming on 10Play.

Given the current scenario in the two-legged encounter, Sergio Lobera’s men are certainly staring at elimination from the competition. In the first leg, played at the Central Coast Stadium in New South Wales last Thursday, the home team were a runaway 4-0 winners. To stay in the competition, Odisha FC will first have to wipe out the deficit before aiming to make further inroads.

But then, Lobera is a thorough professional who believes nothing is impossible in a game of football. He is cautiously optimistic, as he is completely aware of the rivals’ strength.

“They are an amazing team, obviously. They are doing an amazing job in this competition. They are one of the best teams in Australia, for sure," Lobera acknowledged.

“In football, everything is possible and we need to believe in the end. We need to fight till the end. They need to play here and it's not easy to play in Kalinga. I think tomorrow is a different environment for them,” said the Spanish coach.

Central Coast Mariners head coach Mark Jackson didn’t sound too bothered about the change of venue. With a four-goal lead, he is sitting comfortably and his words ooze confidence, naturally.

“We don't change our approach in any game. We were happy with the result in Australia in the first leg. We have to approach this game like any other game. We should know where we want to go and how to take the game to the opposition and we should also be strong defensively. So, nothing changes for us,” said Jackson, who remained an England U20 international during his playing days.

Among the Mariners' attackers, Mikael Doka is likely to cause the most headache for the home side. He struck two goals in the first leg and if he carries the same form on the Kalinga Stadium pitch, then Odisha FC, who are currently placed third in the ISL standings, may have to devise some special plan for the 24-year-old Brazilian striker.

The man Odisha FC could be depending on to deliver the goods is a Brazilian, too. The 32-year-old Diego Mauricio, has proved to be a prolific scorer for the Bhubaneswar side, but it remains to be seen to what extent he can stretch the well-knit defence of the A-League side.

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