AFC Cup: Weary Odisha FC face Central Coast Mariners in Inter-Zonal semifinal

Odisha FC's Roy Krishna. Shibu Preman / Focus Sports / ISL

Odisha FC face Australian club Central Coast Mariners in the first leg of the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semifinal on Thursday. It will be a challenging match for the Indian Super League side, especially considering that they played in Chennai on Sunday night and have had little time to acclimatise to both atmospheric conditions in Australia and the time difference.

Head coach Sergio Lobera was furious about the ISL's lack of flexibility. The Spaniard said that his club weren't just representing themselves in Asian competition, but also the league and the country. Lobera said Odisha had requested the ISL for a date change for their clash against Chennaiyin on Sunday, but their request was refused. He also said that after the date change request was refused, the club asked the ISL to advance kickoff to 5pm instead of 7:30pm, so that they could fly out on Sunday night instead of Monday morning, but that request was refused as well.

As a result, Odisha will have only one training session in Australia before the game. They will be carrying some tired legs as well, so it will be interesting to see how Lobera manages the fight for silverware on multiple fronts after his team fell to an injury-time winner from Jordan Murray in Chennai on Sunday.

The Mariners will play an A-League game this weekend before their trip to Bhubaneswar next week, so they are likely to face the same circumstances for the return leg that Odisha are at the moment.

Match Details

Kick-off time: 1:30 pm IST.

Venue: Industree Group Stadium, Gosford, New South Wales, Australia.

The AFC Cup so far for both teams

In their group, Odisha had to put on an inspired run after losing their first two games, at home to Mohun Bagan Super Giant and away to Bashundhara Kings.

They went on to beat Maziya home and away, secured an excellent 5-2 win over Bagan at the Salt Lake Stadium, and then in a crunch winner-takes-all clash at home, Mourtada Fall's header helped them beat Bashundhara 1-0 to secure their spot in the knockout stages, a fantastic achievement in their first season in Asian competition.

Central Coast, on the other hand, had to play two additional games to get to this stage compared to Odisha. They first topped their group, which had Malaysia's Terengganu FC, Indonesia's Bali United, and the Philippines's Stallions Laguna FC. After that, in the ASEAN Zonal semifinal, they beat Cambodia's Phnom Penh Crown 4-0, before beating fellow A-League side Macarthur FC 3-2 to reach the Inter-Zonal playoffs.

Form Guide

(Most recent first)

Central Coast Mariners: WWWWW

Since losing 3-1 to Sydney FC on February 10, the Mariners have won five in a row. The two AFC Cup zonal playoff wins have been sandwiched in between three 1-0 wins in the A-League, against Western Sydney Wanderers, Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets.

They are currently second in the A-League, three points behind leaders Wellington Phoenix.

Odisha FC: LWDDW

Odisha will have to bounce back from that loss to Chennaiyin, but in their last five, they've only won two -- against Hyderabad and East Bengal. They have had hard-fought draws against Mohun Bagan and FC Goa as well. Although they are top of the table in ISL, they are level on points with Mumbai City FC, having played a match more.

What to watch out for?

The pair of foreign forwards in both teams will both be massive threats in important areas of the pitch. If Odisha have Diego Mauricio and Roy Krishna, the Mariners have Colombian Angel Torres and Brazilian Ronald Barcellos. The latter scored the winning goal in extra time against Macarthur FC in the zonal final, while Torres has scored 13 goals so far this season in 25 appearances. Barcellos has big shoes to fill, having replaced fellow Brazilian Marco Tulio, who scored eight goals in the group stage of the AFC Cup this season.

For Odisha, Krishna has scored 14 and Mauricio 13 in all competitions this season. In addition, Fall has eight goals in all competitions as well. Lobera is an attack-minded head coach, and there's no reason to believe his side will set up in any other way. So having game-changers across the pitch is critical.

Expected Starting XIs

Central Coast Mariners (4-4-2): Danny Vukovic; Storm Roux, Dan Hall, Brian Kaltak, Jacob Farrell; Christian Theoharous, Josh Nisbet, Max Balard, Angel Torres; Ronald Barcellos, Jing Reec.

Odisha FC (4-2-3-1): Amrinder Singh; Amey Ranawade, Mourtada Fall, Carlos Delgado, Jerry Lalrinzuala; Ahmed Jahouh, Puitea; Roy Krishna, Cy Goddard, Isak Ralte; Diego Mauricio.