SC East Bengal hope to end season on a high against OFC

Panaji, Feb 26: SC East Bengal would look to close their maiden Hero Indian Super League campaign with a win when they take on Odisha FC at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim on Saturday.

The Red-and-Golds would draw inspiration from the reverse fixture in January, which ended in a 3-1 win for them - their first in this tournament.

Action from the first-leg encounter between SC East Bengal and Odisha FC

SCEB Head Coach Robbie Fowler will be back on the sidelines for his team's final match this season. Speaking about the contest at the virtual pre-match Press conference on Friday, he said, 'We're all professional. It may be the last game, but there's still a lot to play for. We'll make sure that our players go into the game with the right attitude.

'Our message to the players is simple - let's cut down on simple mistakes, which have cost us at times. The boys must not let themselves down because there are thousands of people watching them on TV. The main thing is to enjoy the game.'

SCEB currently stand ninth on the table with seventeen points from nineteen matches (three wins, eight draws and eight defeats). A win by a healthy margin against OFC could see them climb to the eighth spot.

Despite challenges to team building, the Red-and-Golds competed well against most opponents, often punching above their weight with some beautiful possession-based play.

Reflecting on SCEB's overall performance this season, Fowler said, 'I think there have been many positives. We had only two weeks to prepare, but we competed well. We move on and adapt. We produced some good performances that can obviously be better.'

In their previous match against NorthEast United FC, the SCEB think-tank made eight changes to the starting XI with a view to giving game time to some of the lesser-used players. Although they lost the match 1-2, goalkeeper Mirshad Koottappunna shone on his ISL debut, making three saves and two clearances.

Having served their one-match suspensions, captain Danny Fox and Jacques Maghoma will be available for selection on Saturday, while Scott Neville (4 bookings) and Raju Gaikwad (2 bookings vs NEUFC) will miss out.

OFC, meanwhile, are the bottom-placed team in the ongoing edition having amassed nine points from nineteen matches.

The Bhubaneswar-based club was trounced 1-6 by Mumbai City FC in their last outing, suffering their 12th defeat this season.

Winless in their last 10 matches, OFC have struggled both defensively and offensively. Besides conceding the most number of goals (39) and keeping just 1 clean sheet, the Kalinga Warriors have had only 4 scorers thus far, with Brazil's Diego Mauricio alone netting 11 of their 19 goals.

Despite OFC's defensive frailties, goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh tops the leaderboard for most saves (64) made this season. Gaurav Bora, Hendy Antonay, Jacob Tratt, Bradden Inman, Cole Alexander, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, and Manuel Onwu are the other opposition players to watch out for.

Sharing his opinion about this OFC line-up, the Liverpool legend said, 'Odisha must feel hurt by their last result. They'll try to rectify that and make amends. Every player will fight for pride, and we'll try to right what was wrong in the last game. It will be nice to be back in the dressing room for the last one.'

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