Top spot up for grabs as Bengaluru host Odisha
Bengaluru: An intriguing Indian Super League (ISL) duel is on the cards as Bengaluru FC face Odisha FC at the Sree Kanteerava stadium here on Wednesday.
Bengaluru FC, the defending champions, are coming off a 2-0 defeat against Mumbai City FC and will be eager to get back to winning ways. Odisha FC, on the other hand, are on a four-game winning streak which has established them firmly in the top four.
Interestingly, a win on Wednesday could see either side rise to the top of the table.
Bengaluru, currently third on the table with 22 points, can leapfrog both FC Goa and ATK who have 24 points each, with a win. Odisha, who have 21, can go level with Goa and ATK.
Carles Cuadrat's side have had a water-tight defence this season, conceding just nine goals in 13 games. But the Spanish coach would not be happy after two defensive errors helped Mumbai City beat them in the last game. He will hope that was just an aberration. Moreover, Bengaluru have conceded just four goals at home.
Another worry for Bengaluru will be their attack. Apart from Sunil Chhetri, who has scored eight goals, none of the forwards have given meaningful contributions.
Ashique Kuruniyan and Udanta Singh have struggled for form and consistency. Udanta's form, especially, has dropped when compared to last season with just one goal to his name. In fact, Cuadrat has even dropped Udanta from the starting XI in the recent matches.
Bengaluru will hope strikers Manuel Onwu and Deshorn Brown come to the party and provide some support to Chhetri.
Odisha FC will be looking to cash in on their terrific form. They have scored eight goals and conceded just two in their last four games. If they win in Bengaluru and make it 5 consecutive wins, they will overtake FC Goa and become the team with the most consecutive wins in the ISL this season.
Aridane Santana and Xisco Hernandez have been key to Odisha's revival. Santana, specifically, has scored nine goals this season and has risen to the top of the scoring charts. In fact, five of his goals have come in the last four games.
Three of their four wins have come at home in Bhubaneswar. Though their last win against Hyderabad came away from home, Josep Gombau will want his team to improve their away record. However, to beat Bengaluru in Bengaluru is a tough task, something only Mumbai City have been able to do this season.
Odisha do have a couple of concerns with Vinit Rai suspended and Nandhakumar Sekar injured but Gombau will hope the rest of the team step up against Bengaluru.