Hero Club Playoffs: Key battles to watch out for in Hyderabad FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan
ATK Mohun Bagan and Hyderabad FC will go head-to-head in the Hero Club Playoffs to secure a place in the AFC Cup 2023-24 preliminary round at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala on Wednesday.
The head-to-head results between the two teams have been tied after four meetings in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) this season, which intensifies the rivalry between the sides.
Both teams won their home matches before facing each other in the semi-final. However, neither side managed to score in both legs, resulting in a 0-0 draw after 210 minutes of football. The Mariners secured a place in the final after Vishal Kaith's heroics in the penalty shootout.
ATK Mohun Bagan and Hyderabad FC have shown their mettle in the Hero ISL, and this upcoming one-off tie promises to be another thrilling battle between the two evenly matched sides, with the winner of this match going one step further to represent the country at the continental level.
Ahead of what promises to be another belter, here are the three key individual battles that could determine the outcome of this tie.
Dimitri Petratos vs Odei Onaindia
Petratos and Onaindia are the backbone of the respective sides and their performances could potentially decide the outcome of the game.
The Kolkata-based club will heavily rely on Petratos to score goals as he has been their primary goal scorer this season, having already netted 12 goals for the Mariners this season. His playing style is a perfect fit for Juan Ferrando’s philosophy, and he was quick to adapt to the team’s style of play.
But more than Petratos’s goalscoring prowess, it’s the striker’s devastating link-up play and late runs in the box that could worry Onaindia.
However, Onaindia’s experience and exceptional defensive intuition make him a reliable player on the pitch. The Spanish defender must maintain his positional awareness and mark the attacker closely. The defender needs to limit Petratos’s time and space on the ball as giving him too much room could prove costly for his team.
Carl McHugh vs Borja Herrera
In major fixtures like this, the most important battles are often fought in the middle of the pitch, and one of them in this upcoming game could be between McHugh and Herrera.
These two players may not receive much attention, but their impact on their respective teams has been immense. So, whoever gains the upper hand in this midfield battle could significantly alter the course of the game in favour of their team.
Known for his energetic and aggressive playing style, McHugh will be key to keeping Herrera at bay. He has a tendency to drop between the centre-backs to create numerical superiority in the backline. The Irish midfielder has been a vital cog for his team, playing a crucial role in ATK Mohun Bagan’s victory in the Hero ISL.
Herrera, too, brings much energy to his team’s midfield. However, the Spaniard is more versatile and possesses a more offensive-minded playing style than McHugh. The 30-year-old carries the playmaking responsibility for his side and has been quite successful in doing so. He has netted four goals and provided five assists in 22 Hero ISL appearances this season.
Slavko Damjanovic vs Mohammad Yasir
Another exciting battle to watch would be between Damjanovic and Yasir.
The Serbian defender has been an immovable force at the back for the Mariners, since his move to the club in January. He is a no-nonsense, dynamic defender, who leads a highly resilient defence. The centre-back is known for his imposing marking skills, and ability to make crucial challenges.
Damjanovic successfully countered Hyderabad FC’s attacking threats in the two-legged semi-final of the Hero ISL. Now it is to be seen how he steps up in the playoff tie and handles someone like Yasir, who excels at exploiting his lightning-fast pace to stretch the opponent’s defence.
The attacking midfielder has been a dominant presence in the attacking third this season and has caused the opponent all sorts of problems with his technicality and precision.
Yasir has a great eye for goal as well, scoring three goals and making four assists in 20 Hero ISL appearances this season. Monitoring his movements in the final third will certainly be a tough task for Damjanovic.