Hyderabad FC eye second place as ATK Mohun Bagan look to regain momentum
Hyderabad FC need only two points from their remaining three games to confirm a second-place finish in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) but will be wary of an ATK Mohun Bagan team that will be desperate for momentum when they visit the GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium on Tuesday.
The Mariners were placed relatively comfortably in the playoff spots for most of the season, but have managed only one win in their last five games. They've managed to hold on to a spot in the top four but were equalled on points by Bengaluru FC this past weekend. However, they do have a game in hand against Bengaluru FC and will be looking to restore an advantage on the board to avoid any jitters in the closing stages, where they face Hyderabad FC and Kerala Blasters before the Kolkata derby to end this phase.
One of ATKMB's biggest concerns at the moment is their goalscoring. In the five-game period, they've managed only three goals - last week, they played out a goalless draw against Jamshedpur FC - and all of them have come from Dimitri Petratos. Only two teams - the bottom two - have scored fewer goals than ATKMB's 20 this season and of those, 12 have come from Petratos and Hugo Boumos combined. The lack of contributions from elsewhere is likely a key challenge that head coach Juan Ferrando is pondering as he looks for a turnaround. (Club statistics)
"Honestly I'm thinking more about trying to get the three points to fight for the third position. I'm not thinking about if [we'll fall] out of the playoffs. This is not our mentality," said Ferrando. "Our mentality is to travel to Hyderabad and get three points and fight for the third position. On Saturday, Kerala Blasters lost against Bengaluru - I think it's a good opportunity for us because if we get three points on Tuesday, on Saturday we'll have a final for third position [against Kerala Blasters]. This is our mentality, that's how everybody is thinking."
Hyderabad FC and head coach Manolo Marquez will have been concerned after their loss to Odisha FC last week. It was the first time since their season opener against Mumbai City FC in which the defending champions conceded three goals in a game.
Their next opponents happened to be the last team to beat them before their Odisha FC result - all the way back on November 26. Hyderabad FC had managed only one shot on target in that reverse fixture and will be looking to play with more freedom with the knowledge that the ISL League Shield chase is now over for them. (Club statistics)
"At this moment, every game is very difficult and there are 5-6 teams fighting for 4-5 slots - and to play against these teams is very difficult," said Marquez. "I know they are in a difficult situation now, but all the people in the country who like football know that they're a very good team and they can beat all opponents. They are a good team but we are a difficult team to beat when we do the right things."
These two sides have faced each other on seven occasions, with ATKMB winning thrice and three draws. The only outright win for Hyderabad FC against ATKMB came in the first leg of last season's semi-finals. (Hero ISL standings)