Hyderabad FC will have to counter the challenge of a rejuvenated East Bengal as they host the Torch Bearers in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the G.M.C. Balayogi Athletic Stadium in Hyderabad on Friday.

After starting off the season in style, Hyderabad lost two back-to-back games in the Hero ISL for the first time in almost two years but returned to winning ways with maximum points against Chennaiyin FC last week.

Hyderabad FC are currently second on the table but their major concern would be the recent form of star striker Bartholomew Ogbeche, who has failed to score in the last six games. Hero ISL’s highest ever goal scorer, last scored in the 1-0 win against Bengaluru FC during Matchweek 3. The striker will be keen on ending his dry spell in the upcoming game. (Club statistics)

The defending champions are in second place, but a win against the Torch Bearers will lift them back into first, a point ahead of Mumbai City FC, who will have a game in hand. (Hero ISL standings)

“They [East Bengal FC] play with a lot of order and are extremely dangerous in counter-attacks with good players on the flanks and in attack. They defend well,” said Marquez. “In the last two seasons, I have seen them finish at the bottom, but now I think they will be fighting for the top six,” he added.

East Bengal FC registered their third win of the season in their last match when they beat Jamshedpur FC 3-1. This is their best ever start to a Hero ISL campaign. But, what will motivate the team is that they have a better run away, with all their wins coming on the road. Lot will be at stake for East Bengal FC as they would not like to continue being outside the top 6 now.

The team’s top-scorer, Cleiton Silva, bagged a brace in the last game and is just one goal shy of the season’s leading goal scorer Jorge Diaz. Suhair VP got off the mark this season when he scored the opening goal of the last game just 90 seconds after kick-off, while Naorem Singh became the first Indian player to nab three assists in the Hero ISL. (Club statistics)

In the next match, head coach Stephen Constantine will be without right-back Sarthak Golui, while midfielder Charis Kyriakou could return to the squad for the next game.

“We don’t make excuses. We want to win and are learning and trying to get better every week. It is going to be a long and tough season, and I think we have taken a few good steps,” said Constantine. “The performances are better, and I hope we beat Hyderabad in the next game and then beat Mumbai City in the one after that,” he added.

The two teams have clashed four times in the Hero ISL, and the Torch Bearers have never beaten Hyderabad FC. The defending Champions have won twice, and the other two games have ended in a draw