Mohun Bagan Super Giant will face Odisha FC on the first matchday of the AFC Cup at the Kalinga Stadium, Odisha on 19th September. This will be Odisha's inaugural entry in the prestigious competition. This much-anticipated clash will mark the beginning of their journey in Group D of the south zone, alongside other prominent teams such as Bashundhara Kings from Bangladesh and Maziya Sports & Recreation Club from Maldives. The teams will compete in the group stage matches, which will be held on a home-and-away basis. Securing the top position in the group will grant them a spot in the inter-zone play-off semi-finals.
Sergio Lobera explained a lot about their opponents and the preparation Odisha FC is doing ahead of the AFC Cup opener in the pre-match press conference. He clearly stated that the players are excited about the campaign and will give their best.
"They want to compete. The pre-season may be the most important period of the season. But also the most worried, the most worried for the players is to work about the physical condition is like to be practically a new team, a new team because we have new players with a new coach, a new staff new there. Now they are really, they are very excited because we need to compete and we have a lot of games in a short time. We need to get well this, this this competition. And also we are going to play in a few days against in the first game of the competition that the players are, are very happy to, to start to compete in because it's, it's, it's football and at the end the training the season, it's important, but we need to compete," he said.
Odisha FC became the 5th ISL team to qualify for the AFC Cup. Sergio Lobera clearly stated that he is excited to work with talented players. He also added that the team is excited to play in their home for the first time in this competition.
"I expect to be there with an atmosphere with our supporters is the first time we are going to compete in the AFC Cup. It is not not only one match, I think we need to celebrate a very good job the club has been doing during long, during a long time. If you are now playing the AFC up here is because of this and I think tomorrow is a good day to be together, to be very excited, and to show that they want together. We are so not only about the players about the team but also the rest of you. I am very excited. I'm very happy to be able to play this competition tomorrow and I am sure it's the start. It's only the start of something important," Lobera said.
The Mohun Bagan boss Juan Ferrando is one of the most successful head coaches in the ISL. On the other side, Sergio Lobera also has lifted some titles with FC Goa and Mumbai City FC. Mohun Bagan recently lifted the Durand Cup title and the players are on red hot forms. Meanwhile, Odisha will play their first AFC Cup campaign.
"Obviously, he is doing a very good job. The cases were difficult the first season for him maybe but he's doing an amazing job. We know each other very well. But in the end, football is not only about the coaches, but it's also about the players and I am very proud of the squad. I am very happy with my players. We have very experimental players to play these kinds of games and also we have strong players. It is helpful for us to play in these competitions and against the big teams to get more experience and I am happy to play against them," Sergio Lobera explained.
Sergio Lobera is not taking any team lightly and also stated the opening game will be against one of the best teams in India. The Odisha FC boss also added that they are not afraid of any team as they also have very good players.
"We know we are going to play against one of the best teams in India. They have very good players, won the trophy last season, and also won the Durand Cup. They spent a lot of signing the best players, the best players in India. We have a lot of respect for all the teams but we don't feel afraid about anything because we also have good players. The team is going to play in our stadium. We believe and we trust in ourselves. And in the end, we have tools to compete against, everything. Obviously, maybe a lot of people, are for it, maybe I agree about this. But when you are playing the best team, it has to be perfect. You need to do the job as best as possible and we will compete against everyone," the Odisha FC boss concluded with.