One of the two new ISL teams this season, Odisha FC will be hoping that a change in name and home base will also provide a change in fortunes, after enduring two torrid seasons, that turned out to be the end of the Delhi Dynamos, as we know it.
In the off-season, the erstwhile Delhi Dynamos became Odisha FC, after owners, GMS Shipping Corporation signed a deal with the Odisha state government, to move to the state. The club will play their home games at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
Although coach Josep Gombau and club director Rohan Sharma have been bullish about the club's move and their happiness to be in Odisha, there have been distractions in the off-season, with especially the Delhi Dynamos fans predictably not taking too well to the news of their club being killed off.
But the Odisha government, which also will be the name that appears at the front of the Odisha FC, made an offer that was too good to be refused, and for Sharma and the club management, it was a no-brainer to move, especially after the administrative troubles the club reportedly faced in Delhi.
Odisha FC Squad
Marcos Tebar and Francisco Dorronsoro are the only foreign player retained from last year's Delhi squad. Xisco Hernandez, Carlos Delgado and Aridane Santana add to the Spanish flavour in coach Josep Gombau's squad, with Senegalese midfielder Diawandou Diagne and Argentine Martin Perez Guedes completing the foreign contingent in the squad.
Lallianzuala Chhangte is a huge loss to the squad, with the young Mizo winger having joined Chennaiyin FC in the off-season. Other youngsters like Vinit Rai, Daniel Lalhlimpuia and Sajid Dhot have now had enough game-time in the ISL, for Odisha to be expecting big returns from them.
Rana Gharami, who was earlier provisionally suspended, after testing positive for a banned substance, has had his ban reduced and will be able to line up for Odisha from their first game onwards.
A lot will depend, though, on the number of goals that Santana can get. With Xisco for company, he will get the service he needs as well. Even though many Bengaluru FC fans will tell you Xisco flattered to deceive in the Blues' title-winning season last year, the Spaniard was an important player for Carles Cuadrat and finished with the highest number of assists in the ISL for Bengaluru last season.
Full Odisha FC Squad
Goalkeepers: Francisco Dorronsoro, Arshdeep Singh, Ankit Bhuyan
Defenders: Carlos Delgado, Narayan Das, Gaurav Bora, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Amit Tudu, Rana Gharami, Sajid Dhot, Shubham Sarangi
Midfielders: Marcos Tebar, Xisco Hernandez, Diawandou Diagne, Martin Perez Guedes, Vinit Rai, Bikramjit Singh, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Nandhakumar Sekar, Romeo Fernandes, Van Lal Remtluanga Chhangte, Lalhrezuala Sailung
Forwards: Aridane Santana, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Seimingmang Manchong
Josep Gombau continues to stay in India, and he will know that he will have to get his team playing better and getting better results than the Delhi Dynamos got last season.
It took 11 games last year for Delhi to get their first win of the season, and it's safe to say that a similar run this year can see him lose his job.
Rohan Sharma has publicly backed his manager and said that everyone at the club trusts the project that they're building with Gombau.
Sharma also said that Gombau has been actively involved in the recruitment for the summer, so there really is no excuse for the Spaniard this season to not get results.
One cannot see where Odisha have really improved their squad compared to last season's Delhi Dynamos. Aridane Santana, the striker, will be trusted to show more than Andrija Kaludjerovic did last season.
With Chhangte gone, can Nandhakumar and Romeo Fernandes consistently deliver match-winning performances from the wings?
The defence, too, does not seem to be hugely improved, and that was a problem for Delhi last season, with the number of goals they conceded.
Can Odisha upset the form book?Published 18 Oct 2019, 17:16 IST