Gokulam Kerala FC will take on Odisha FC in the Hero Club Playoffs for a place in the group stage of the AFC Cup 2023-24. Gokulam Kerala FC have qualified for the playoffs on the basis of having won the Hero I-League 2021-22. Odisha FC, meanwhile, are in contention having won the recently concluded Hero Super Cup. The playoff game will be played at the EMS Corporation Stadium at 19:00 IST on Saturday, April 29, 2023.
For Odisha FC, the game is a perfect chance to end a memorable season — one which has yielded them their first-ever piece of silverware — by scaling another high. For a team that finished sixth in the Hero Indian Super League, a victory will guarantee a first-ever foray into Asian competition. For that though, remaining grounded in the present is massively important.
It is understandable that the team is still buzzing from their Hero Super Cup victory, but the celebrations, coach Clifford Miranda was keen to emphasize, did not last longer than the 24 hours that followed it.
“We came here to Kozhikode with a set objective,” Miranda said, “And that objective kept evolving game by game, from March 16th when we got here, to today. Yes, we won the Super Cup, but that was in the past. The players recognise that. I recognise that. We start again, from zero. What happened over the past few weeks won’t matter once we step on to the pitch. We start all over again.”
To further emphasise his point, Miranda also said that he would not make any undue changes to his team and had stressed on them the need to play the same way they have been doing. “We won’t change our way of playing, and while I’m not going to reveal my team, I will say that we will play the strongest team available in the hope to walk out with a win.”
While Odisha’s season has also turned into a juggernaut of optimism and belief, for Gokulam, the Hero Playoffs present a unique chance to end an underwhelming season on a high. The Malabarians lost all three group stage games in the Hero Super Cup, having qualified for it with a hugely entertaining, high-scoring and chaotic 5-2 win over Mohammedan Sporting.
It added to the disappointment of finishing third in the Hero I-League 2022-23 season. While they were separated from second place by three points, the gap between them and eventual winners RoundGlass Punjab FC — a massive 13 points — was an illustration of how far they had fallen from their perch. The Hero Club Playoffs provides an opportunity to salvage not just pride but also a piece of memory from the season.
“It’s a great opportunity to finish the season with positive feelings,” coach Francesc Bonet said. “Not everyone gets that, and it will be a tough match, of course. But we are ready to compete. We have a lot of experienced as well as young players who are keen to put on a good performance to cap off all their hard work. Let’s see if we can channel all that into a good result.”
The Hero Club Playoffs game between Gokulam Kerala FC and Odisha FC will be broadcast on the Sony Sports 2 channel and streamed on FanCode.