Team Profile: Chances of Samba magic with hint of Spanish flair at Hyderabad

Making their first foray into the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) in the 2019-20 season will be newcomers Hyderabad FC. Representing a city with a rich and glorious footballing history in India, the team will be eager to make a big statement in their debut season.

Here’s a brief analysis of the Hyderabad FC squad going into Hero ISL 2019-20.

THE TEAM

A large chunk of the squads consists of former players from the now-defunct FC Pune City unit and has some notable names like Marcelo Pereira, Marko Stankovic, Nikhil Poojary, Robin Singh, among others. In addition to them, a bunch of new players like Nestor Jesus, Deyvison Rogerio Da Silva (Bobo), Giles Barnes, Rafael Lopez Gomez, Matthew Kilgallon, Laldanmawia Ralte have also been roped in. Among them, Indian football fans will be familiar with Nestor, with the Spaniard having played a pivotal role in Chennai City FC's triumph in Hero I-League 2018-19. The pacey winger contributed with 8 goals and 6 assists during the campaign and was adjudged the Hero I-League's best midfielder last season.

In former East Bengal midfielder Laldanmawia Ralte, Hyderabad potentially have another trump card, who, if he settles well, can prove to be a dangerous offensive asset. His ability to arrive late in the box and notch up crucial goals was a prominent feature of the nippy attacker's game last season for the Red and Golds, as he finished as the second-highest Indian goal scorer in Hero I-League 2018-19 behind his former teammate Jobby Justin.

AT THE HELM

Former Hull City manager Phil Brown arrived in India midway through last season and showcased exceptional tactical acumen. The Englishman revived a somewhat struggling FC Pune City side and in his six matches at the helm of the Stallions, won three, drew twice and lost just a single match. Despite his short stint, Brown's ability to reinvigorate his players and bold calls when it came to making tactical and personnel decisions drew plaudits. With a stronger offensive unit to work with at Hyderabad FC,

STRENGTHS

There's already a substantial buzz amongst fans about the potential attacking combination between Brazilians Marcelo Pereira - a former Hero ISL Golden Boot winner from the 2016 season - and Bobo - a former Brazil U20 international and a prolific goal scorer with a documented history of success in countries like Brazil, Turkey and Australia. Marcelo's craft and guile on the ball, coupled with Bobo's ability to finish consistently can turn out to be a dynamic combination to look forward to in the Hyderabad team this season. For the uninitiated, Bobo scored 42 goals in just 54 appearances in Australia's A-League during his time at Sydney FC in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons and also holds the record for the most number of goals (27) ever scored by a player in a single A-League season (2017-18). The former Besiktas man has also won the Turkish league, the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, the A-League and several other trophies during the course of his illustrious career, before coming to India. Nestor’s pace and ability to pick out the pass will only add some Spanish flair to complement the Brazilian duo.

Former Derby County player Giles Barnes will be yet another attacking asset for Hyderabad and Brown’s familiarity with the player, having handed him his professional debut back in 2005, will only help the team.

With the likes of Robin and Laldanmawia to back them up, Hyderabad have a lethal arsenal of goal scorers and creators to call upon. The team is stacked in midfield areas too, with the likes of Marko Stankovic and Adil Khan having proved their capacity to work in tandem and control matches from the deep.

AREAS OF CONCERN

Despite the presence of Rafael Lopez Gomez, who played in the Hero ISL for FC Pune City in 2017-18, and former Leeds United defender Matthew Kilgallon, Hyderabad FC's backline may suffer from a lack of established Indian personnel. The likes of Gurtej Singh and Sahil Panwar have shown glimpses of their promise in the past, but, in large parts, have been inconsistent while Tarif Akhand and Asish Rai are yet to make their Hero ISL debuts. Mohammad Yasir, on the other hand, has played just a single match. With only five foreigners allowed to be fielded and a host of big-name foreign attackers in the squad, Phil Brown will have a tough decision on his hands whether he can afford to slot in both Gomez and Kilgallon in his daily starting XIs. One of his options could be to play Adil in defence, but the move would take out a lot of bite from the midfield area.

SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS: Kamaljit Singh, Anuj Kumar, Laxmikant Kattimani

DEFENDERS: Sahil Panwar, Rafael Lopez Gomez, Matthew Kilgallon, Gurtej Singh, Mohammad Yasir, Tarif Akhand, Asish Rai

MIDFIELDERS: Adil Ahmed Khan, Sahil Tavora, Deependra Negi, Nestor Jesus Benitez, Marko Stankovic, Shankar Sampingiraj, Laldanmawia Ralte, Rohit Kumar, Gani Nigam, Nikhil Poojary

FORWARDS: Giles Barnes, Deyvison Rogerio Da Silva (Bobo), Marcelo Leite Pereira (Marcelinho), Abhisek Halder, Robin Singh

With a flurry of top attacking talents in the fray, can Hyderabad FC clinch the crown in their debut season.

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