Hyderabad FC head coach Manolo Marquez is expecting a difficult clash when his side take on Jamshedpur FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium, in Hyderabad, on Saturday.

Hyderabad FC and Jamshedpur FC, who won the Hero ISL title winners and League Shield respectively last season, have witnessed contrasting fortunes this campaign. While Hyderabad FC have already qualified for the playoffs after ensuring a second-place finish this season, Jamshedpur FC have been languishing at the 10th position in the Hero ISL standings.

However, Aidy Boothroyd’s side have been unbeaten in their last two games. They have also picked up maximum points in their previous two away games and Marquez was aware of the level of HFC’s opponents.

“It will be difficult (to play against them), because they are playing good football,” Marquez said in the pre-match press conference.

“I think that they found the correct team after the arrival of Rafael Crivellaro. They have good players with very good quality especially in attack. They have (Jay Emmanuel-)Thomas, now Pronay (Halder), who provides good balance to the team. They have good wingers in Boris Singh and Ritwik Das. They have Daniel Chima. For me, it's a surprise that the previous League Shield winners are in this (bottom half) position in the league. In the last few games, they are showing the level that they have,” he added.

Since the turn of the year, Jamshedpur FC have put up some gritty performances. They have suffered three defeats in seven games since January. They have registered draws against FC Goa, Chennaiyin FC and ATK Mohun Bagan during this period. Marquez stated that the signing of Crivellaro has added fluidity to Jamshedpur FC’s playing style.

“They won the Shield, but when you start the new season and the scores are not good and unexpected, the team was changing the system and the players. They didn't find the correct team. And it was important for them when they signed Crivellaro. At the beginning, the team was unbalanced. They didn't have too many players in the build up. JET (Emmanuel-Thomas) played more as an attacking midfielder behind Chima and they had Peter Hartley and Eli Sabia,” Marquez explained.

“In the middle they had Wellington (Priori), and he is not a player that can build well. Now they have good balance as JET is playing with Pronay. Every player is good in their position. And they can put one player like Crivallero. They have good wingers. Ritwik Das is part of the Indian national team. They have Ishan Pandita who is another dangerous player. With this team from the beginning, Jamshedpur FC could have fought for the playoffs,” he added.

This will be Hyderabad FC’s final home game of the season before they travel to Kochi to face Kerala Blasters FC in their last league fixture. Marquez stated he will give chances to players who have not featured regularly during the season for the remaining two matches.

“It’s true that we are second. The target for the regular season is over. We have to prepare the team (for the remaining two games) and we can’t stop. On Saturday, the players who have not been in the lineup but those who deserve to and have trained well throughout the season, will play. We want to win,” Marquez said.

Marquez was accompanied by midfielder Mark Zothanpuia in the pre-match press conference. The defender has been part of Hyderabad FC’s first team for the past two seasons, but has made just four appearances across two seasons.

“We have trained very well for this game. Jamshedpur FC are good in physical duels. They have good foreign and Indian players. It will be a tough game, but we will fight for the three points,” Zothanpuia said.

The young midfielder, who has been fighting for a place in the first team spoke about his growth as a player and learning from foreign players in the side.

“We have been training with good foreign players, last season as well. I have improved in many aspects like my passing and body positioning, and more. If you train everyday with top players, you learn a lot,” Zothanpuia concluded.