Talking Tactics: Key battles to watch out for in Hyderabad FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan semi-final

Hyderabad FC will be aiming for their first-ever Hero Indian Super League (ISL) final when they face ATK Mohun Bagan in the first leg of semi-final 2 at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Saturday.

Manuel Marquez’s men are playing the semi-finals for the first time in their Hero ISL history. Hyderabad FC led the league table for a substantial period early this season and would like to win the silverware, after missing out on the League Winners’ Shield. Whereas, ATK Mohun Bagan, yet again, narrowly missed out on the Shield and will hope to finally win the Hero ISL title, having finished as runners-up last year.

This battle of the titans will see a lot of back and forth, but everyone’s eyes will be peeled on the biggest superstars on the pitch. Both teams possess a lot of quality players – both domestic and foreign and there are a number of volatile match-winners in either side. However, a few particular battles on the pitch will heavily decide the result of this semi-final clash, as both teams have certain opposition players, they need to keep quiet to gain the early advantage.

Here are the three key duels to keep a close eye on in the first leg between Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan:

Bartholomew Ogbeche vs Liston Colaco

The Golden boot contender Bartholomew Ogbeche is the Hero ISL top-scorer this season with seventeen goals so far. He has also provided an assist and will have fond memories of scoring against ATK Mohun Bagan from their first clash of the season. 

Ogbeche has done well for the Hyderabad FC in attack and has been their most consistent player in the final-third. He will want to make his mark in the semis and must be marked tightly by the ATKMB defence. 

That said, ATK Mohun Bagan have big guns in attack themselves. Their talisman Liston Colaco is the leading goal-scorer (8) for the Mariners and has spearheaded their forward line with distinction. 

The Indian forward scored against the Hyderabad FC when they last met in the group stage. The 23-year-old forward will be the Mariners’ biggest attacking threat in the semis.

Joni Kauko vs Joao Victor

Joni Kauko has played a huge role in ATK Mohun Bagan’s resurgence under Juan Ferrando, being their creator-in-chief in midfield and the driving force in attack. 

With three goals and six assists to his name, Kauko is now one of the best performing foreign stars in the league and will play a huge role in the semi-finals. 

On the other hand, Joao Victor, the versatile midfielder has been a pivotal pillar in HFC’s defensive sturdiness this season and has even topped the tackling charts in his team. He has also registered himself on score sheet five times this season. 

The tenacious midfielder will look to make things difficult for Kauko and ensure that he can’t work his magic around the game.

Akash Mishra vs Roy Krishna

One of the most exciting duels will be between Hyderabad FC’s Akash Mishra and ATK Mohun Bagan’s Roy Krishna. Hyderabad FC has conceded only 1.2 goals per game in the league stage and huge credit for that goes to the Indian defender. 

He is the spearhead at the back and the Hyderabad FC defence plays at a very high level with him leading the backline. The defender has made 46 clearances and 30 blocks in 20 matches.

On the other hand, ATKMB must be pleased as Roy Krishna is finally getting back to full fitness at the right time and he will be tough to contain by Marquez’s men. His movement and finishing are the main assets that will trouble HFC’s defence. Krishna has five goals and four assists in 14 appearances and will look to add more.

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