Bengaluru, December 22: Bengaluru FC will be aiming for their first set of back-to-back wins this season when they take on Hyderabad FC, who are firing on all cylinders in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Friday. Heading into the second half of the season, the Blues find themselves eight points off the last playoff spot, while Hyderabad FC can topple Mumbai City FC to go top of the league if they clinch full points.

In the last match, Danish Farooq’s 5th-minute goal handed Bengaluru FC their third win and third clean sheet of the season. Despite moving up a place into eighth, the gap to the final playoff spot remains substantial.

Left-back Parag Shrivas replaced Prabir Das in the last game and put in a stellar performance against the Red Mariners. The full-back was defensively astute and agile going forward. The performance has definitely put him in contention to start the next game.

In midfield, the club’s top scorer, Javi Hernandez, continued to be a threat with his smart passes and shots from range. His Spanish compatriot Pablo Perez has made substitute appearances in the last two games, still awaiting his first start for the club. (Club statistics)

“You have to learn from each result. There were certain aspects last week that were quite pleasing, but there were others that need improvement. The three games that we have won this season have all come with clean sheets,” said Grayson.“If we can combine clean sheets with the positive attitude that we possessed last week, regardless of who we play, we have a good enough team to beat anybody on our day. But if the standards drop, the chances of winning drop too,” he added.

During the last Matchweek of the first half of the Hero ISL, Hyderabad FC were on a break. The defending champions had gone to the top of the table after beating East Bengal FC 2-0 two weeks ago before dropping back into second place after Mumbai City FC’s win.

Three points separate Hyderabad FC and the top spot, and it is fair to say that the defending champions will arrive in Bengaluru with a fixed purpose. Head coach Manolo Marquez is likely to switch things around up front for this encounter. Javier Siverio and Borja Herrera came off the bench to combine for the second goal in their last game, with the former scoring his third goal of the campaign. The Spanish duo could be in contention to start, or Marquez could deploy them as impact substitutes again. (Club statistics)

“We start the second leg now, and in every country, the second leg is more difficult. There is no room for failure. We play against BFC, and for them, a win is mandatory because they are eight points behind the top six. A draw is not an option for them,” said Marquez. “We will face a very strong side in the next game. I’m surprised to see them in the position they are in. We won the first leg, but the second will be very hard,” he added.

In the reverse fixture two months ago, the defending champions pipped the Blues after Bartholomew Ogbeche scored the only goal of the match. In seven Hero ISL meetings between the two sides, Bengaluru FC have only won once, Hyderabad FC have won thrice, and three games have ended in draws. (Hero ISL standings)