Defending champions Hyderabad FC will be desperate to dodge a third successive defeat as they face Chennaiyin FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Saturday. Hyderabad FC’s unbeaten streak ended with two back-to-back defeats against Kerala Blasters FC and ATK Mohun Bagan. Meanwhile, the Marina Machans suffered a late heartbreak in Bhubaneswar last week against Odisha FC.

The hosts have won two and lost three of their last five games, in an alternating pattern. Chennaiyin FC’s form at home this season which is concerning for them, as they have only won one home game out of four so far.

Abdenasser El Khayati came off the bench to score again in the last game. His double took his season’s tally to four goals in as many games. It will be interesting to see how long Brdaric uses the Dutchman as a super-sub before sacrificing one of his foreign players to include the midfielder in the starting XI. (Club Statistics)

“We are working all the time to bring our best players on the field. To win matches is our aim, and tomorrow is one opportunity,” said Brdaric. “Yes, Nasser is ready, and he is an option for tomorrow. We have been working since day one to get our players in shape and get them fit, so we have multiple options. Creativity is also important, and that is something Nasser can provide,” he added.

Hyderabad FC spent 40 days at the top of the Hero ISL before they lost their unbeaten streak and suffered back-to-back defeats. Not only did they lose, but they also failed to score in both games. In their short history, the defending champions have never failed to score in three consecutive Hero ISL games - a record that is at stake in the next game.

Losing first-choice shot-stopper Laxmikant Kattimani has evidently been a big blow for Hyderabad FC, but the defensive wall in front of Anuj Kumar will have to help the young keeper settle in between the sticks. Bartholomew Ogbeche has fired blanks in the last two games and could drop a little deeper or even onto the bench for the next match. (Club Statistics)

“I think they [Chennaiyin FC] have good offensive players. It’s an unpredictable team, which was evident in their last game against Odisha,” said Marquez. “We were together in the same hotel in Imphal, and I have a great relationship with Thomas [Brdaric]. I like Chennaiyin because they are a very brave team that plays to win,” he added.

The two sides have met six times in the Hero ISL. The Marina Machans have won three times, while Hyderabad FC have won twice. Chennaiyin FC are seventh in the Hero ISL with ten points after seven games. A win over Hyderabad FC will see them leapfrog FC Goa and Kerala Blasters FC and move into fifth place, level on points with ATK Mohun Bagan. A win for Hyderabad FC will help them keep second place. (League Standings)