A spot in the AFC Cup 2022-23 preliminary group stage will be up for grabs when Hyderabad FC take on ATK Mohun Bagan in a one-legged encounter at the EMS Corporation Stadium, in Kozhikode, on Wednesday. 

Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan couldn't make it past their respective group stage in the Hero Super Cup, with the winner of the tournament having a chance to seal a direct berth in the AFC Cup 2022-23 group stage. That spot has now been sealed by Odisha FC, who got the better of Gokulam Kerala FC in Saturday’s Hero Club Playoff fixture. But for Hyderabad and ATK Mohun Bagan, Wednesday’s fixture presents a final chance to make their way to the continental stage. 

Both sides qualified for the playoffs during the Hero ISL 2022-23 campaign. Hyderabad FC, who finished second in the standings, were eventually knocked out by third-placed ATK Mohun Bagan in the semi-finals on penalties. The scenario was the same in the final with the winner being decided after a penalty shootout with the Mariners beating Bengaluru FC in a thrilling and nail-biting contest. 

During the Hero ISL 2022-23 season, Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan boasted the joint-best defensive record of 11 clean sheets. Both sides recorded 1-0 wins against each other during the regular season while their two-legged semi-final games resulted in goalless draws before being decided by penalties. Having faced each other on four occasions in the season gone by, both teams will be well aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

As both sides gear up for another enticing battle, here’s what we can expect. 

Erik Paartalu’s analysis:

I think by the time they get to play each other at the end of a long season it's going to be a (penalty) shootout between the sides. You have an attack and then we have an attack. Both sides will want to finish on a high, but I think we will see goals in this one.

Mark Tompkins’ analysis: 

These sides conceded just 33 goals between them across the Hero ISL season. ATK Mohun Bagan drew their two semi-finals 0-0. We had six goalless draws in the Hero ISL this season and these two teams were involved in five of them. I don't think we are going to see a goal fest, that's for certain in this Hero Club Playoffs clash. I think it will be a real war of attrition or may be an odd goal. Both games during the regular season were settled by a single goal. 

If you look at ATK Mohun Bagan, they need their goalscorers to step up. Petratos has been a little bit quiet in the Hero Super Cup for them. For Hyderabad FC, it will be Bartholomew Ogbeche and Javier Siverio. It could be a single goal (that could decide this) or it could go all the way to extra time and penalties.

It is such a difficult one to call but it is going to be a difficult game between these two coaches who know how to set their teams up. They know how to stifle the opposition as we have seen many times during the course of the regular season. Don’t expect a goalfest. Maybe a single goal for either side will be enough to win it, unless it goes all the way to a penalty shootout.