Jamshedpur: Last season’s league winners and semifinalists Jamshedpur FC will host Odisha FC as they kick off their campaign on Tuesday at the JRD Tata Sports Complex here.
Jamshedpur had a phenomenal season in 2021-22, finishing top of the table with 43 points after the league stage. They were, however, knocked out in the semifinals by Kerala Blasters FC. Jamshedpur were consistent across the season. Only Hyderabad FC scored more league goals than Jamshedpur’s 42 and no team conceded fewer than their tally of 21.
Odisha FC, on the other hand, finished last season in 7th place with 23 points. Odisha FC will be boosted by the return of Diego Mauricio from Mumbai City FC. The Brazilian scored 12 goals for Odisha FC in the 2020-2021 season, ending that campaign as third highest goal scorer in the league.
He won’t be the only one making a return to Odisha FC. Spaniard Josep Gombau, who was there for the 2019-2020 season will be at the helm again. He led the team to sixth place that season, their highest league finish so far in the ISL. Gombau spent two years as manager of Queensboro FC in New York City between the two stints.
Gombau acknowledged Jamshedpur FC’s credentials in his pre-match press conference but was quick to remind everyone that this is a new season.
“For us, it is a challenge to play here tomorrow. We know that we’re playing against a very good side, a very good team, last season’s ISL league winners, but tomorrow [is] a new competition,” he said.
Jamshedpur FC have retained the services of Daniel Chima Chukwu. The Nigerian made a switch from East Bengal FC in last season’s transfer window and helped Jamshedpur FC clinch the ISL League Winner’s Shield by scoring seven goals. No one has scored more goals for Jamshedpur FC since he joined the club.
Jamshedpur FC have also lost two important figures in Owen Coyle, their Head Coach from last season, and Greg Stewart, their top scorer.
Coyle agreed to become the manager of Queen’s Park in the Scottish Championship, while Stewart left for Mumbai City FC. Stewart didn’t just end the season as the club’s top scorer with 10 goals – he was also the league leader in assists with 10 of them, and was a recipient of the ISL of the League award.
Replacing Owen Coyle is Aidy Boothroyd, who revealed that he has settled in nicely and that the team had enjoyed a great pre-season.
“It’s been brilliant, considering I didn’t really know any of the staff or any of the players coming into the game. We’ve had a really good pre-season – touchwood, injury free. Everybody is happy and just looking forward to the game, really,” he said.
In the six games previously contested between the two sides, Jamshedpur FC have come out on top four times, Odisha have won once, and one match ended in a draw. Jamshedpur FC have won the two previous meetings between the sides. The match promises to be a highly engaging affair.