July 29, 2021

‘They are one of the best teams in ISL’ – Stuart Baxter hopes Odisha FC can play better against Hyderabad FC

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Hyderabad are 10 points behind favourites Mumbai City in a tie against two teams from the top four…

Odisha FC, after picking up their first win of the season in a 4-2 victory over Kerala Blasters earlier in January, would’ve hoped to kick on and improve. 

That win came after nine games in the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) season but it still remains Odisha’s only victory as they picked just a point in their next two games, the last being a 2-1 at the hands of Chennaiyin FC.

“We were a little bit negative in our approach (against Chennaiyin) and we chose to play with too many long balls instead of playing through the lines which we normally do. Both Manu (Manuel Onwu) and Marcelinho were looking deep and it was empty higher up the game. So there was nowhere we could establish the game,” felt the British manager.

As they gear up to face an in-form Hyderabad FC on Tuesday, Baxter stated that he would have to look into the composition of his team and make some forced changes.

“We don’t play FIFA manager. We are looking at stats (statistics) of players who are into the danger zone (of getting injured). We can’t just let them run through the pain barrier. So we have to make changes. The changes didn’t work out optimally (against Chennaiyin) and I’m always of the opinion that we shouldn’t change unless we have to. For this game, we will try to go with our strongest available team,” he said.

The former South Africa national team coach also pointed out that they had to build their game around Diego Mauricio, who has scored six of the side’s 11 goals so far, and hopes the Brazilian forward keeps performing at his peak.

“Diego, when we first came, was used to being available to finish any attack. We had to change that because we are not Manchester United in the league. We had to create the game and make sure to try to be on the front foot. Diego’s attitude has changed as we’ve gone along and we have also fit him in our structure.

“Him being the goalscorer, people give him the ball more often which sometimes is detrimental to players like Daniel (Lalhlimpuia) or Manu who can also get the ball. I think we’re learning to play with each other more and more all the time,” Baxter explained.

The Odisha coach went on to reveal his admiration for Hyderabad who he tips as one of the best teams in ISL this season.

“I think they are one of the best teams [in the ISL]. I like the way they way. They can be quick on transition because they have good technical players and their game plan can also work when they spread out. In Aridane (Santana), they also have a striker [with whom] they can go a bit long if they want.

“So I think they are one of the most complete teams and the coach (Manuel Marquez) has done a very good job. In the first game we had against them, I think we gave them a good game especially that the match was decided on a penalty. This time around, I’m hoping we can deal with them a lot better,” he signed out.