Panaji: After a dominating victory over Kerala Blasters, Hyderabad FC are back in action when they welcome league leaders ATK Mohun Bagan to the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, in Round 19 of the Indian Super League, on Monday.
The Kolkata side can run away with the League winners’ Shield with a win in this game while Hyderabad need the points to reinforce their place in the top-4. HFC (27 pts) are level on points with NorthEast United and FC Goa (who play Bengaluru later today) and cannot afford to drop points in the race to the top-4.
“Tomorrow is a difficult game for us. When you need a win going into a game, it is never going to be easy. I don’t know if this is going to be an easy game to watch for the fans of either club but for sure, it will be an exciting game for the neutrals,” said Head Coach Manolo Marquez, speaking ahead of this game.
Antonio Lopez’s side have stitched a run of five wins after the loss against the Highlanders late last month and are now five points clear of Mumbai City, at the top of the league table. The likes of Tiri, Sandesh Jhingan and Pritam Kotal have been consistent at the back to help Arindam Bhattacharja to 10 clean sheets in 18 games.
ATKMB also have the best defense in the league, having conceded just 11 goals all season but it their strike force of Roy Krishna and David Williams along with Manvir Singh that has caused problems to every team in the country. Krishna, with 14 goals, leads the Golden Boot race this season and will be the danger man for Hyderabad in this game.
They may miss the services of Marcelinho, who picked up a knock against SC East Bengal but the likes of Carl McHugh, Lenny Rodrigues, Subhasish Bose and Javi Hernandez make them one of the best squads in the league.
“ATK Mohun Bagan have a really good squad with quality players in every position. They are a strong team that are not easy to beat but this game, as a challenge, is really a fantastic opportunity for my players,” said Manolo.
Hyderabad FC put four past the Blasters in the last game and are now unbeaten in 10 league games in the ISL. They registered a point against ATKMB in the earlier fixture and will hope to put in a similar performance this time around as well.
Fran Sandaza, who now has four goals to his name, along with Aridane Santana, Joel Chianese and Halicharan Narzary all need to be at their best to test Arindam on goal, on Monday.
But the likes of Odei Onaindia and Chinglensana Singh will also have a crucial role to play, as they are up against a match-winner in Roy Krishna.
“Of course, we are motivated, as a team. We know that we are not easy to beat but ATKMB also need the three points so I am sure this will not be an easy game for either side,” added Manolo.
Hyderabad saw the ever-consistent Asish Rai pick up an injury in the game against Kerala and Manolo revealed that he could be out for the season. But he remains the only player unavailable for this game.
Manolo believes that this is a chance for his replacement, to make a name for himself. “Asish’s injury was really unfortunate, and he deserves to be playing games like these. He has had an incredible season so far, but it is now time for another player to step-up in his position,” the Head Coach added.
Hyderabad have conceded just three goals in their last six games, keeping four clean sheets. But ATKMB have failed to score a goal just twice this season. They are, however, playing just couple of days after the Kolkata derby, which could affect their intensity in this game.
ATKMB and HFC are in fine form at the moment, making the result of this game a tough one to predict. “Both teams are playing for different goals for the rest of the season. But we need the three points as much as they do, so we are ready to give our best,” said Manolo, speaking about the challenges that lie ahead on Monday.
The game kicks off at 7:30 pm on Monday and will be telecasted live on the Star Sports Network with live streaming on Disney+ Hotstar and JioTV.