Match Preview: Indian Super League leaders visit Industree Group

Central Coast Mariners are back at Industree Group Stadium for a huge occasion on Thursday evening, as they host Odisha FC in the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Semi-Final first leg.

The Mariners made it to this stage with a dramatic extra-time victory over Macarthur in the Zonal Final, crowning us the ASEAN Zonal Champions.

READ MORE: Brazilian brilliance books India trip in dramatic AFC Cup win

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ About Odisha FC

Thursday’s opponents are current leaders of the Indian Super League, but are likely to lose top spot in the coming weeks after a run of one win in their last four, has left the door open to Mumbai City or Jason Cummings’ Mohun Bagan to leapfrog them with games in hand.

Whether they win the ISL title or not, it has been a progressive season for Odisha, who last season finished 6th in the league but qualified for their first ever appearance in a continental competition by winning the Indian Super Cup.

They advanced through the Group Stage with 12 points, recovering from two defeats to start by winning the remaining four group games, to top Group D and crown themselves South Zone Champions.

Their danger man is experienced striker Roy Krishna, whose name may be familiar due to his stint in the A-League with Wellington Phoenix in which he netted 50 goals in 122 appearances over five years.

The 36-year-old is the leading scorer in this season’s Indian Super League, with 12 goals in 18 games, whilst Mourtada Fall is Odisha’s leading scorer in the AFC Cup with four.

Krishna has been keeping a keen eye on the A-League since departing Phoenix in 2019, saying he watches every game in his pre-match press conference this week, and he has been impressed by the Mariners as well as his former club this season.

“I’ve been watching the A-League, itโ€™s an easy time to watch in India so I watch most of the games.” Krishna said.

“Central Coast and of course Wellington Phoenix are flying at the moment. I have been keeping a tab on the A-League and itโ€™s good to be back.”

Odisha and former A-League man Roy Krishna ahead of taking on the Mariners.

“They have young, talented players, they are in the top two for a reason so we respect them. Itโ€™s going to be an exciting match.” he added.

Odisha have another familiar name in their ranks in former Mariner Cy Goddard, who is now with the Indian club after a spell with Detroit City, upon leaving the Central Coast in 2022.

Read more about Odisha, via A-Leagues, here.

๐Ÿ—ฃ Mark Jackson: ‘We do our research into the opposition and prepare’

“It’s been a hectic season, but as a club we want to be in as many competitions as possible so we accept that and look forward to the challenge that lots of games brings. The squad is shaping up well, everyone is fit and healthy and we’re ready to go.” Jacko said.

“There is a collective positivity around the club at the minute and that helps breed confidence in the players when they go out and perform, long may that continue for them.”

Jacko on how collective morale within the club helps the players.

“Every game presents difficult challenges but he players are stepping up, they are embracing it. We will be ready for the game against Odisha, they’re another good team who are sitting high up in their league.”

Their attacking threat is prominent, they have a strong number nine and direct, quick wingers who can cause problems. But it’s nothing we don’t know about, we do our research into the opposition and prepare for that.

Mark Jackson on Odisha.

As always a huge percentage of how we prepare is about what we do, but we have to be mindful of what they can bring and we will be ready for that.” Jacko added.

๐Ÿ—บ Our AFC Cup journey so far

Our route to this stage looked slightly different, having to play two extra fixtures after progressing through the group.

The Mariners advanced from Group G with four wins, one draw and one loss, finishing a point ahead of Malaysian outfit Terengganu, who crashed out of the competition despite going unbeaten in the group (3 wins, 3 draws).

A 1-1 draw with Terengganu on Matchday five at Our Paradise, put pressure on the Marinersโ€™ tricky trip to the Phillipines on Matchday six, but Jacksonโ€™s side held their nerve and ran out 3-0 winners against Stallions Laguna to book their place in the Zonal Semi-Final against Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian Champions were brushed aside at Our Paradise, with Ryan Edmondson’s hat-trick off the bench adding to Jing Reec’s opener to seal a 4-0 win, setting up the Zonal Final with Macarthur.

READ MORE: AFC Cup Knockout Stage: Explained