ISL 2022-23: Chennaiyin FC hosts Odisha FC in must-win encounter for playoffs hope
ISL 2022-23: Matchday 18 begins on Thursday, as Chennaiyin FC will be hosting Odisha FC. It would be a must-win for the hosts, as a loss would rule them out of the playoff race.
Odisha FC (OFC) will be looking to drive itself back into the playoff spots as it visits the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai to take on former two-time record champion Chennaiyin FC (CFC), which is also seeking to close the gap to sixth place in the 2022-23 Indian Super League (ISL) on Thursday. The Juggernauts have a fixture in hand over former champion Bengaluru FC (BFC), which is only ahead of OFC on goal difference. The Marina Machans, meanwhile, are five points away from the sixth spot with a match in hand.
Thomas Brdaric’s men will have to rest their six-contest winless streak to keep their playoff hopes active. Last week, CFC sorrowed a 3-1 loss versus BFC, which saw the Blues go past OFC in the playoff race that is strengthening as the ISL enters the last month of its league stage.
The Marina Machans’ record at home this season has been concerning, as they have only one out of the seven fixtures. The club’s top scorer, Petar Sliskovic, has failed to find the net in a couple of straight ISL matches for the first time since November 2022.
Talisman Abdenasser El Khayati came on as a reserve for the last ten minutes versus BFC the previous week, guaranteeing the Dutchman’s return from a long injury layoff. Brdaric will likely make some transformations to include El Khayati in the starting XI in the upcoming contest.
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“We had a pre-match meeting with the players and tried to show them opportunities for the final five games. If everything goes according to our plan, we can add 15 points to our tally in these games. We started from a point where it was tough to build something. Now, we have gained a lot of experience. It’s time for that experience to reward us with points, and I’m confident we can implement what we need to,” said Brdaric.
OFC’s return to ISL activity after a break was melancholy after it suffered a 2-0 loss in Kolkata versus ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) last week. Josep Gombau’s men have lost four from its previous five meetings and have lost ground after being comfortably in the playoff locale, as FC Goa (FCG) and BFC, its direct rivals, have upped their performances.
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The club’s top two goal-getters, Diego Mauricio and Nandhakumar Sekar, were on target when these two teams set up a scenic five-goal thriller in Bhubaneswar earlier this season. While Mauricio has netted five goals in the previous five fixtures, Sekar has hammered just a lone goal in the last five.
Raynier Fernandes has been instrumental in the Juggernauts’ midfield this season. The midfielder mourned an injury last week and was substituted in the 20th minute. Gombau will be keen to have Raynier back to full fitness as the season enters a critical phase. The two teams have met in the ISL on seven instances, with both sides winning a couple each.
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“We have to be competitive and have a strong mentality. Now, we have reached an all-or-nothing moment in the season. We have five games to go, and our focus is on consistency to be in the top six. They [CFC] are also fighting for a playoff spot. For them, this game is all-or-nothing. It will be a very similar and difficult game,” concluded Gombau.