Panaji, Goa: After a confidence-boosting 2-0 victory over Chennaiyin FC, Hyderabad FC are back in action when they take on NorthEast United at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, on Sunday.
Manolo Marquez’s side beat NorthEast with a 4-2 score-line in the first leg of this fixture. But with both teams tied on points after 15 games, this game gives a chance for either side to assert their place in the top-4 in the league table.
“This game is a really important one for both teams, having taken the same points from our 15 games. If you lose in this game, you lose the lead in the top-4 race but if you win, you put some distance, so it is crucial to get a positive result on Sunday,” said HFC Head Coach, Manolo Marquez, speaking ahead of this crunch clash.
Since the two sides met the last time around, the Highlanders have replaced Gerard Nus with Khalid Jamil and the Indian coach has done extremely well in the last few games. NorthEast are unbeaten in their last five games, having picked up three wins and two draws and will go into this game high on confidence.
“Khalid Jamil has done a great job with the NorthEast team. It is not easy to beat the likes of ATK Mohun Bagan, Jamshedpur and Mumbai City but more importantly, the spirit they showed in the game against Goa, was really impressive,” said Manolo.
The Highlanders will miss the likes of Ashutosh Mehta and Khassa Camara, both of who will serve a suspension on Sunday, for the accumulation of yellow cards. But the acquisition of Deshorn Brown in the January transfer window has added goals to the side.
Federico Gallego, who scored twice from the spot against FC Goa recently and also against Hyderabad in the previous encounter, Nim Dorjee, Benjamin Lambot, Lalengmawia and Luis Machado have all been consistently impressive in the recent run of form for NorthEast, and will once again be the danger men for Hyderabad, in this game.
“Khalid has won the I-League previously; and now, the most important thing is that he gives his players confidence. They are organized, have a dangerous attack and are not going to be easy to face,” Manolo added.
On the other hand, Hyderabad FC are currently in a seven-game unbeaten run themselves, having registered a victory over Chennaiyin in the last round, a week ago. The form of Fran Sandaza, Aridane Santana, Halicharan Narzary and Roland Alberg will be a cause for concern for the visitors in this game.
But more importantly, Liston Colaco, who has scored four goals for Hyderabad, all of which have come against NorthEast, could be the real threat for Khalid Jamil’s side in this game.
However, HFC will be without the services of Joel Chianese, who picked up a niggle late in the win over Chennaiyin recently. The Australian who was struggling with the injury he suffered in the second half, played on given that HFC had made all their changes, and scored an important goal in the final minutes. However, Hyderabad will be boosted by the return of Nikhil Poojary and Lluis Sastre, revealed Manolo Marquez.
With just goal-difference separating the two sides, a win in this game could potentially take the team closer to qualification but the Hyderabad Head Coach claims that this does not add pressure on his side.
“Of course, every week there will be fewer teams who can qualify but at the moment, that does not add any pressure on our team. I believe that as a player, these are the kind of situations you want to be in,” he said.
“If you struggle to perform under pressure, you are not really fit for this sport. For me and my team, we want to enjoy this pressure and hope to do as best as we can,” he concluded.
The game kicks off at 7:30 pm on Sunday and will be telecasted live on the Star Sports Network with live streaming on Disney+ Hotstar and JioTV.