Hyderabad FC take the field against ATK Mohun Bagan in the Hero Club Playoffs for a seat in the preliminary round of the AFC Cup 2023-24 on Wednesday, with the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala set to host the action.

The two sides faced a group stage exit in the Hero Super Cup and will be raring to put up a fight for the coveted spot. Two silverwares among two great teams with two top coaches, the battlelines have already been long-drawn ever since their tryst in two straight Hero ISL semi-finals (during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 season).

In four encounters this season, this fixture has overseen just two wins, two goalless draws, two goals, four clean sheets, and a terrific penalty shootout that witnessed ATK Mohun Bagan reaching the finals and eventually winning their first-ever Hero ISL title. 

The Mariners are familiar with the AFC Cup – having played in the preliminary stage of the competition last season – in comparison to their contenders who would be keen to make their debut in the prestigious tournament.

After pulling off a terrific season with the cream of the Hero ISL title at the top of it, head coach Juan Ferrando will be determined to go a step further this time after bowing out to Malaysian side Kuala Lumpur City FC in the knockout stages of the competition last season.

However, getting past Manolo Marquez’s Hyderabad FC won’t be a cakewalk for the Mariners. Marquez – who has been the longest-serving manager for the Deccan side – will manage his last game for the club in the upcoming clash. That being the case, the Spaniard would be looking to go full throttle to mark his departure by sealing his side a spot in Asian football. 

Our experts return to throw their hats in the ring and make their bold predictions for the epic clash.

Erik Paartalu’s prediction: 

Hyderabad FC 0-2 ATK Mohun Bagan

Ferrando always has pressure from upstairs and it is something he loves and hates at the same time. With Asian football on the line, the pressure will be the usual for him. They will go all out, it's risk vs reward which he likes and with it being a playoff spot for the AFC Cup on the line, they still have work to do if they get past Hyderabad FC.

In a way it would be a good precursor for them before the next Hero ISL season. Juan will want to get through so his pre-season is at least competitive.

Mark Tompkins’ prediction:

Hyderabad FC 1-0 ATK Mohun Bagan

Hyderabad FC always want to win whether it is Manolo Marquez’s last game in charge or not, they have that winning mentality which has been instilled in them by the coach over the last couple of seasons. 13 wins in 20 league games this season, they played brilliantly yet again under Marquez.

They will want to win, and of course they will; he will want them to win. The players will go out and give it their all against an ATK Mohun Bagan side that is going to be very difficult to break down on the night. They want to go out by sealing that AFC Cup place but of course, he won’t be there to coach the team should they make it.

I think it will be a very tight game between Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan. I can see just one goal settling it either way. It depends on the strikers as well, if Dimitri Petratos starts positively or either Bartholomew Ogbeche or Javier Siverio, depending on Manolo Marquez’s selection, start positively. It will be Manolo Marquez’s last game in-charge and that might just be the spur they need to go over the line and win the match.