The intrigue ahead of the Indian Super League (ISL) finals continues to gather momentum. On Monday, Mohun Bagan Super Giants defeated a rather strong opponent, Mumbai City FC, 2-1, thus setting the context for the knockout stage with two teams entering the playoffs, both of whom have shown leadership at different stages of the playing season, according to statistics from betting site 1win

The situation in the standings unfolded as follows: each of the participating teams had three defeats, one win and one draw in the last five ISL matches. Therefore, the next meeting between Odisha FC and Kerala Blasters FC at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday was expected to be a crucial encounter to determine who would continue in the tournament. 

Towards the end of the season, the Odisha FC players have lost a bit of form despite the fact that the team was on a winning streak just a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, now it is in fourth place in the standings. Blasters, who showed excellent results at the beginning of the season, have noticeably worsened their performance, but now they are only in fifth place. This is quite an indicative situation for the league, where the initial favourites can move to the outsiders due to poor consistency within the team, as well as the absence of key players due to injuries at the most inopportune moment. 

Poor form is no reason to relax. Especially when the final is so close. Under the competent coaching of Sergio Lobera, Odisha will start the playoffs as favourites, as they always perform well at home. On the other side of them are the Juggernauts, another absolute home run leaders and favourites of 1win users. The team has managed to pick up 27 points in 11 matches, of which eight wins and three draws. Their goal is to get their ninth win in the upcoming match, which will guarantee their automatic qualification to the semi-finals, where they will face the Mariners. This time around, Lobera’s charges will be playing with a full squad, so their victory is expected to be decisive and uncontested.

How did it happen that Lobera’s team still missed the Shield? According to the coach, sorting out the mistakes is yet to be done. Right now, the main priority is to finish the season beautifully. And even though the players did get tired closer to the final, one can’t ignore their brilliant performances and spectacular encounters against the best teams in India. The mere fact of being in the final of Kalinga Super Cup already deserves respect. The meeting with Kerala Blasters should be decisive for the athletes and confirm their reputation as strong players who can compete with experienced rivals.

The Blasters coaches have the same goals in mind. Therefore, for Odisha FC the match will be played in the most intense environment. If the team manages to reach the semi-finals, it will show its ability to compete with any team, regardless of its ranking and professionalism. Such a victory will significantly raise the players’ profile in the eyes of fans, 1win users and the gaming community. 

Regarding possible advantages for the Blasters, including a confident demeanour at home, Sergio Lobera questions past merit and prefers to assess the situation in relation to the current context. In his opinion, past merits cannot be the basis for a successful playoff performance. Therefore, Odisha FC’s performance strategy has been adapted to the new context. Strategy and competent behaviour on the pitch are the main keys to victory, so the coach sets his athletes only for a positive outcome. 

Another argument in favour of a possible Odisha win is the absence of key defender Naocha Singh Huidrom from the Blasters due to suspension: during the meeting with East Bengal FC, the 24-year-old footballer took a head kick, for which he was suspended for the next three matches by the disciplinary committee of the All India Football Federation. 

On his part, Blasters coach Ivan Vukomanovic said the team is prepared for any substitutions and absence of important players on the pitch, as they have had to face such situations many times during the season. He considers the ability of his players to adapt to different conditions and circumstances as one of their strongest qualities, which will help the players to come to victory.