East Bengal FC will tour to take on Hyderabad FC at the Gachibowli Stadium to cap off the Saturday double header of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 tomorrow. The Red & Gold Brigade are winless since their triumph in the Kalinga Super Cup last month. Their 2-2 draw in the Kolkata Derby was followed with successive losses against NorthEast United FC and Mumbai City FC. Hence, their playoff prospects, which seemingly appeared to be bright a couple of weeks ago, are dwindling and need an urgent resurgence. The team is placed 10th in the table with two victories and five defeats in 13 encounters so far.

They have not won in the ISL in their last six matches, with their previous victory coming on December 4 against NorthEast United FC by a 5-0 margin. They would possibly be hoping that their aspirations receive a boost against Hyderabad FC, a team that is still searching for its first win of the ISL campaign. Few things have gone right for the hosts this year, but the form of East Bengal FC doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence at the moment either. This is an opportunity for both these teams to set things straight and possibly sow the seeds of a possible comeback into the scheme of things that could lead them to progress in the ISL.

What’s at stake?

Hyderabad FC

Hyderabad FC has scored the least goals amongst all teams in ISL 2023-24, having found the back of the net only five times in 14 matches. However, it is not a concern that they face against East Bengal FC, as they have netted in each of their seven fixtures in the league, the only team against whom Hyderabad FC has managed this feat. However, their current record doesn’t hold them in good stead.

They have not scored in their last five games, and another such match will make them only the second team after Chennaiyin FC (7) to go on a stretch of six games or longer without scoring in the ISL. The team has an inexperienced frontline right now, and head coach Thangboi Singto must in fact try devising new ways through which he can make the boys breach the opposition’s backline. Hyderabad FC is the only team to have failed to score from a set-piece so far this season, with all five of their strikes coming from open play. Should they look at that as an area they can work on to get better at?

East Bengal FC

East Bengal had won 2-1 against Hyderabad FC in their encounter earlier this season, and the coming match presents them an opportunity to record a league double over the team for the first time in ISL history. Their current six-game winless streak in the ISL is only surpassed by a similar 10-match-long run that they went on from January-October 2022. However, head coach Carles Cuadrat boasts of a formidable record over Hyderabad FC, averaging two points in his faceoffs against them.

Only against Odisha FC has his teams won more points (2.5) on an average, and it suggests that the Spaniard relishes taking on their forthcoming opposition. His team was hitting all the right chords this last month, but they derailed slightly after lifting the Super Cup. Cuadrat had admitted before the Kolkata Derby that a certain sense of complacency kicks in after winning tournaments and it is a tendency that he will want his players to overcome in the clash against Hyderabad FC.

Key Players

Sajjad Parray (Hyderabad FC)

Hyderabad FC is at a stage where it has to unearth new games to turnaround their prospects in this campaign. Sajjad Parray is one such player, donning a crucial role in the backline for them since the mid-season break. Across three appearances, he has tackled once, intercepted thrice, and made 12 interceptions.

Sajjad averages 21 passes per game at 69% accuracy and he will want to bring in more neatness on that front to help his team build up solidly from the back. The likes of Cleiton Silva, Naorem Mahesh Singh, and Nandhakumar Sekar have fared tremendously against stronger defences this year and hence the match presents a formidable challenge to Sajjad & Co. to come out triumphant at the end of 90 minutes.

Nandhakumar Sekar (East Bengal FC)

Nandhakumar Sekar has uplifted his game remarkably this season, scoring and assisting thrice each in 13 games. He has created 13 goal-scoring opportunities and taken 63.63% of his shots on target. Averaging 19 passes per game, he has recorded an accuracy of 74% and has shown that he has developed an eye to score a goal and set up one as well. Hyderabad FC has conceded 26 strikes across 14 games, which is the highest amongst all teams. With multiple changes amongst the personnel in the backline, they are prone to expose spaces and Nandhakumar and his fellow forwards can capitalise upon in the coming match.

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Played – 7

Hyderabad FC – 4

East Bengal FC – 1

Draws – 2

Trivia: Hyderabad FC’s Alex Saji is averaging two blocks per game in ISL 2023-24, which is the highest amongst all players.

Team Talk

“We as a team are trying our best. Is it enough? No, but it’s a learning process every day with all the youngsters and the very new staff that we have at the moment. But, we are planning as much as with our abilities and we are trying to execute in the training sessions properly,” Hyderabad FC head coach Thangboi Singto said in the pre-match press conference.

“As I always say, we don’t find excuses. We have to change a lot of players to play against a top team like Mumbai City FC in the last match and the players who are playing gave their best, and they made their efforts,” East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat briefly recollected their 1-0 loss to the Islanders in their previous game.

ISL Fantasy

Nandhakumar Sekar (6.2cr)

Six goal contributions in ISL 2023-24

Naorem Mahesh Singh (5.8cr)

Always in the lookout for creating and scoring goals

Gurmeet Singh (3.9cr)

Reliable between the posts for Hyderabad FC

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Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries.