We are ready to compete against every team: Odisha FC’s Sergio Lobera

Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera is geared up for the Kerala Blasters FC challenge as the two sides prepare to clash in Knockout 1 of the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday.

The Kalinga Warriors rounded off the league stage in fourth place with 39 points from 22 matches, marking their best-ever tally in the ISL. They have enjoyed a commendable season thus far, boasting an unbeaten 13-match home streak and being the first team to secure a spot in the ISL playoffs.

Lobera’s squad also showcased a commendable performance in both the AFC Cup and the Kalinga Super Cup, though they suffered a 3-2 defeat to eventual champions East Bengal FC in the latter’s final.

Lobera shared his insights on their season’s performance so far and his evaluation of it.

“We need to finish the season before we can do a very good analysis. But until now, I am very proud of my players. We are competing against the strongest teams in India and fighting there till the end in all competitions,” Lobera stated in the pre-match press conference.

“We reached the final in the Kalinga Super Cup and defeated teams like Mumbai City FC and FC Goa in the process. In the AFC Cup, we finished top of the table against very strong teams like Bashundhara Kings and even the current League Shield winners Mohun Bagan Super Giant,” he shared.

“In terms of the Shield, we had an amazing season. We competed till the end, and I think we need to be proud of our players because it was a difficult season competing in three different competitions,” he continued.

Despite Odisha FC’s recent two consecutive defeats, the Spaniard urged his team to redirect their focus towards the upcoming knockout fixture against Kerala Blasters FC.

Both teams clinched victories in their respective home fixtures earlier in the season, both with a 2-1 scoreline, and are now poised to outperform each other in the knockout fixture.

Lobera further emphasized their readiness for the upcoming playoff challenge, asserting that they are primed to confront the opposition head-on.

“We need to put the focus on tomorrow’s game against a very good team, Kerala Blasters. It won’t be easy, but we are playing at the Kalinga Stadium, and hopefully, we can reach the semi-finals and play against the best team in India at this moment, Mohun Bagan SG, because they’ve won the Shield and to show everyone we are ready to compete against every team and in every competition,” the head coach commented.

Odisha FC finished the league stage unbeaten at home, with just three draws and eight wins. Despite recent setbacks, they are eager to capitalize on their home advantage and secure a place in the semi-final.

Lobera further emphasized that his side will leave no stone unturned in the playoffs and give their all to claim the ISL trophy.

“It’s an advantage for us to play at home, but we need to be ready to play for the full 90 minutes. We need to be ready for extra time. We need to be ready for penalties. We are excited about this possibility because we know in four games, we can emerge as champions of the ISL this season,” Lobera stated.

Coach has shown his belief in me: Princeton Rebello

Midfielder Princeton Rebello joined Lobera at the pre-match press conference. Rebello has seized every opportunity that has come his way this season and has now become an integral part of Lobera’s three-man midfield.

Rebello featured in 17 matches during the league stage this season, tallying one goal and an assist while effectively executing his defensive duties.

“It has been very good playing under the coach and the belief he has shown in me. He has helped me grow and given me a free role in the team to play,” Rebello stated.

The 25-year-old provided insights into the team’s motivation heading into the playoffs.

“Everyone is working hard to win this trophy. We’ve had ups and downs throughout the league, and now we just want to win,” he said.

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