Two points separate Hyderabad FC and table-toppers Mumbai City FC as the former gets set to host Chennaiyin FC in Matchweek 15 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 at the G.M.C. Balayogi Athletic Stadium on Thursday.

While the defending champions remain hot at the heels of the Islanders, the Marina Machans intend to reduce the gap between themselves and the final playoff spot to a single point.

In the first week of the new year, Hyderabad FC extended their winning streak to five games with a resilient 3-0 victory over FC Goa. The defending champions are in fine form as they have scored 17 goals in their last five matches, conceding just three in the process.

Head coach Manolo Marquez will be pleased to see his star striker Bartholomew Ogbeche finally finding top form. The 38-year-old secured his first hat-trick of the season against the Gaurs, and his fourth overall to become the man with the most ISL hat-tricks.

The Nigerian has now scored 6 goals in 13 games and is only two behind this season’s leading goalscorers, Cleiton Silva and Jorge Diaz. Winger Halicharan Narzary has also shown signs of consistency, adding a fifth assist to his tally last week. (Club statistics)

“Chennaiyin is a very good team and they are in a position where they need to win because they are close to sixth place with a game in hand. They like to take risks and I like their style,” said Marquez. “In the first half of the season, we missed his [Ogbeche’s] goals. Now it is similar to the form we were in last season. After lots of narrow 1-0 wins, we are more clinical,” he added.

In a dramatic encounter last week, Chennaiyin FC came from two goals down to snatch a vital point against Jamshedpur FC. The Marina Machans are coming into this game with a winless streak of three games in which they have drawn two and lost one.

Vincy Barretto pulled one back for Chennaiyin FC in the last match before Petar Sliskovic bagged his seventh goal of the campaign to level the score. While a win last week would have brought Chennaiyin FC within two points of the last playoff spot, they are still only four points behind FC Goa, with a game in hand.

Head coach Thomas Brdaric will be back in the technical area in the next game after serving his suspension against FC Goa. However, he will be without key man Abdenasser El Khayati, who is still recovering from an injury. (Club statistics)

“We bounced back in a pretty good way, but now we have checked off that match [against JFC] and are preparing for the game against Hyderabad. It will be a tough one, but the team will be prepared for the challenge,” said Brdaric. “We have some situations to solve. Nasser [El Khayati] is back in Chennai and still recovering. We miss him, but my focus is on the players that are here,” he added.

When the two sides met earlier this season at the Marina Arena, Hyderabad FC registered a 3-1 win. Including that fixture, the two sides have met seven times in the Hero ISL. Both have won three games each, and only one game has ended in a stalemate. (Hero ISL standings)