Odisha FC can be the dark horse of Indian Super League 2020-21 season, which will be played entirely in Goa due to the coronavirus pandemic. Odisha have strengthened their squad in terms of their defence and forward line-up to an extent and may spring a surprise or two. Odisha will be led by Stuart Baxter and have among their ranks a former Premier League defender in Steve Taylor. They even have the joker in the pack in Marcelinho, who can help them stand out.
Odisha have mostly been a mid-table team and have not reached the playoffs since season 3, when they were Delhi Dynamos FC. Despite their change in venue and branding, their fortunes did not alter last season and this time around, they would be hoping to make more impact with a new coach to take the reins. Odisha have retained their Indian core and have an almost all-new foreign line-up for the upcoming challenge.
Odisha FC’s strength will be in their forward line-up. The team has Manuel Onwu and Marcelinho in the ranks, which makes for a fiery combination. Onwu was extremely good for Odisha last season, after joining them mid-season and Marcelinho is all set to be back at the club. Marcelinho was first introduced in the ISL by Delhi Dynamos and he took the league by storm. He has been in India since then and has shown his quality time and again.
Another place where Odisha have improved from last season is their defence with the addition of Taylor and Jacob Tratt. Taylor will be the on-field leader from behind for a team that is full of youngsters.
Odisha’s weakness will be in their midfield, where there is a lack of experience. With Marcos Tebar and Xisco gone, Odisha do not have too much experience to fall back on. Vinit Rai has been a mainstay in the team but he is not very creative. The creative outlet can be brought in by new signing Isak Vanlalruatfela but he is only 19 and will need some support from people around him.
ISL 2019-20 PERFORMANCE
Last year, Odisha finished sixth in the league table with seven wins from 18 games. They drew four games and lost seven, conceding three more goals than they scored. Aridane Santana, who is now a Hyderabad FC player, was their standout player with nine goals to his name while Onwu was their second-highest goalscorer with seven goals.
MOST NOTABLE NEW SIGNINGS
Taylor is undoubtedly Odisha’s most notable signing. Taylor has played in the Premier League and also with Roy Krishna and David Williams in the A-League at Wellington Phoenix and his wealth of experience can be extremely useful for the team. He will be expected to lead the backline and the entire team.
Apart from him, the one young player to watch out for would be Isak. The 19-year-old Mizo shown good creativity for Aizawl both in the I-League and the Mizoram Premier League (MPL). In the two seasons in the I-League with Aizawl, he even scored three goals and made three assists in 19 appearances.
HISTORY IN ISL
Delhi Dynamos FC shifted to Bhubaneswar and rebranded themselves as Odisha FC ahead of the last season. The franchise has qualified for the playoffs only twice in the six seasons (2015, 2016 under Roberto Carlos and Gianluca Zambrotta, respectively).
CHANCES/PREDICTION IN ISL 2020-21
Even though the inexperience and lack of creativity in the midfield can trouble Odisha, they have quite a good team overall and can prove to be a tough nut to crack. They might sneak into the playoffs as well if they can keep their foreigners fit. However, given the kind of season this is going to be, they might finish sixth again.
Goalkeepers: Ankit Bhuyan, Arshdeep Singh, Kamaljit Singh, Ravi Kumar
Defenders: Gaurav Bora, George D’Souza, Hendry Antonay, Jacob Tratt, Kamalpreet Singh, Mohd Sajid Dhot, Saurabh Meher, Shubham Sarangi, Steven Taylor
Midfielders: Baoringdao Bodo, Cole Alexander, Isak Vanlalruatfela, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, S Lalhrezuala, Nandhakumar Sekar, Paul Ramfangzauva, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Thoiba Singh, Vinit Rai, Laishram Singh
Forwards: Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Diego Mauricio, Manuel Onwu, Marcelo Pareira
Head coach: Stuart Baxter