Nothing short of a win would be what the doctor ordered for both Bengaluru FC and Odisha FC when the two sides lock horns in the Hero Indian Super League at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Monday.
Bengaluru are sixth in the points table with 23 points from 17 games, four adrift of fourth-placed Kerala Blasters. Odisha are a spot below them at seventh position having 22 points from 17 encounters.
The Blues saw their nine-game unbeaten streak coming to a halt against leaders Hyderabad and then suffered another defeat to lowly NorthEast United FC, derailing their fresh hopes of a semifinal berth to a certain extent.
"We need to focus only on this game. There are three points to win, and we need to improve. We played well for 20 minutes against NorthEast United, then we gave up. It was the same in the second half and that's why we conceded two goals," Bengaluru head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli said at the pre-match press conference.
"Odisha is a very good team on the counter-press and if you give them space like we saw in the first game that we lost, they can score goals," he said on the opponents.
Bengaluru rely on set pieces more for their goals while Odisha are one of the highest scorers from open play in Hero ISL 21-22.
Bengaluru are the joint top scorers from set-pieces in Hero ISL 21-22 scoring 17 from dead ball situations this season, sharing the record with Jamshedpur FC.
When it comes to open play, Odisha have scored 21 goals from open play, more than half of the goals. The Blues will also bank on in-form forward Cleiton Silva to help the team with the goals, as will Odisha who will depend heavily on Jonathas Cristian to deliver the goods upfront. The two Brazilians are the leading scorers for their respective teams and find themselves among the top scorers this season.
Jonathas has scored in each of his last 5 league games. After his goal against Chennaiyin FC in Odisha FC's last league game, he became the first Odisha FC player to score in 5 straight league games. Cleiton Silva, on the other hand, has scored in two of his last three league games. Only Greg Stewart (7) has scored more goals from set pieces this season than Cleiton Silva (6).
"It's normal in football that you need other teams to give you results. But we can only control ourselves, but if I am going to think about opponents to help us, that won't help. I need to focus on my team and our own results," Pezzaiuoli further said.
Odisha too have to win their remaining games in order to keep their semifinal hopes alive and Kino Garcia said the team will fight till the last minute of this campaign.
"We know that this is going to be difficult. We still have a chance and everybody want to compete until the end. Against Bengaluru, we know that both teams need a victory to arrive in the last two matches will little hope. So we are motivated and the mood in the camp is okay. We need to learn from our mistakes and keep going," he said.
The last time the two teams met in their first game of the season, Odisha ran out 3-1 winners but Garcia refused to read too much into that.
"That is too long ago. We can't think about that now, that was the start of the season. Bengaluru are a good team and had a run of unbeaten games before losing to NorthEast United. So we know it will be a difficult game for us. We have an advantage in physical condition (of the players) as we could rest two days more. But it will be difficult for both teams."