Hyderabad FC will host unbeaten FC Goa at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad on Thursday as both teams get back to the thick of things of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season. The home team has a tricky challenge on its hands, with the departures of certain key Indian and international players putting responsibilities on their domestic contingent and bench players to rise up to the occasion.

 Head coach Thangboi Singto’s biggest strength rests in his ability to unlock the potential of his unheard gems. Hyderabad FC shot into prominence a few years ago because of the promotion of multiple young Indian stars, who even went on to represent the national team.

Now, they have a chance to create a pipeline of another new batch of uncapped players who can make the second half of this campaign their own. On the other hand, the Gaurs have had as flawless a start to ISL 2023-24 as possible. With seven victories, three draws, and no losses, they are two points behind (24) table-toppers Kerala Blasters (26), despite playing two matches fewer than Ivan Vukomanovic & Co. They will be hurt by the absence of India international Sandesh Jhingan, who picked up an injury during the AFC Asian Cup campaign in Qatar.

However, the team has addressed certain drawbacks in the attacking contingent by adding the formidable duo of Mohammed Yasir and Borja Herrera from Hyderabad FC and East Bengal FC respectively. Yasir, primarily, took massive leaps in his career playing for Manolo Marquez at Hyderabad FC and the two of them will be eager to recreate that magic turning up against their former employers on Thursday.

What’s at stake?

Hyderabad FC

Hyderabad FC prided itself in being the hotbed of some of the most remarkable homegrown talents in Indian football. They here have an opportunity to start off from scratch and give a run of games to their trusted upcoming stars. Singto is someone who has an ear on the ground and knows the pulse of the academy players as well as the uncapped footballers in their ranks.

He can shape their playing styles and bring them to suit his broad coaching philosophy to give rise to an inspired run of results in the coming 11 matches. The key in the forthcoming fixture will be to not get intimidated by the efficient winning machine that Marquez is building. Making your home turf a bastion is one of the most important cornerstones for any team to attain success and Hyderabad FC should hope that they are able to convert the support they garner from their supporters into positive tangible on-field results.

FC Goa

The Gaurs will need to buckle up and firstly address the absence of Sandesh Jhingan. The towering centre-back brought a sense of assurance to their backline that made them a team extremely difficult to find the back of the net against. Marquez, however, is adept at finding solutions and fixing such impediments and hence the FC Goa faithful can trust on him to discover a timely solution to the same. An interesting aspect to observe from hereon will be how FC Goa shapes up offensively.

Striker Carlos Martinez has struck thrice in 10 games whereas a lot of the sharpness in their offensive moves came about as a result of the partnership between Noah Sadaoui and Victor Rodriguez. However, with Rodriguez out of the season due to an injury, either Yasir or Herrera could look to fill up that gap in the key attacking midfield position. On a slightly different note, Marquez will be keen to prove a point against Hyderabad FC too. Whilst he is revered by the fans over there, players and tacticians are often keen to outclass their ex-clubs whenever an opportunity comes around. To shrug off any rustiness at the resumption of the season will be instrumental for FC Goa in doing so.

Key Players

Alex Saji (Hyderabad FC)

Hyderabad FC will likely hand out opportunities to new players in the rest of the ISL 2023-24 campaign. Alex Saji is a centre-back, hailing from Kerala, who spent a part of the previous season on loan at NorthEast United FC. He made some brief appearances for the Highlanders and has the potential to be given a run of games at the heart of the backline now.

Saji has turned up for Gokulam Kerala FC in the I-League previously and stands at six feet tall in addition to having a strong build. FC Goa have multiple ways in which they unravel the opposition’s backline. They can cut apart the defence through the centre, or attack from the flanks in multiple ways. The Gaurs have several players who can maximise set-piece opportunities and hence coming on top of these myriad of challenges will be a good test for Saji to come up against.

Mohammed Yasir (FC Goa)

Yasir has a goal and an assist to his name in 11 appearances this season. He was often the most potent attacking threat in the Hyderabad FC unit, but the team was unable to build cohesion together and hence he could bag more goal contributions either. Yasir is someone who operates at his best while playing behind the striker. He can distribute the ball in a timely manner to the flanks, pulling off a wide array of passes – both short and long ones to get behind the defence of the opposition. Furthermore, Yasir has an eye for a goal as well, pulling off a timely strike occasionally that adds another layer to his overall gameplay. One must watch out for some impactful outings from his end in the FC Goa shirt.

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Played – 8

Hyderabad FC – 3

FC Goa – 3

Draws – 2

Trivia: Hyderabad FC have won each of their last three ISL matches against FC Goa.

Team Talk

“I would like to take this as a big opportunity to do something for the club. Is it going to be easy? Definitely not. Of course, playing with a young squad, there will be glimpses of hope when the boys do well against big clubs. But we are going to try our best, obviously,” Hyderabad FC head coach Thangboi Singto previewed the coming half of the ISL 2023-24 season.

“The second leg of a season is always more difficult in all the competitions across countries. This competitiveness is good for us though. There will be a lot of matches amongst the top-five, top-six, and I believe that the second leg will be challenging,” FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez said in the pre-match press conference.

ISL Fantasy

Jay Gupta (3.5cr)

One of the most remarkable emerging prospects of the season

Noah Sadaoui (9.3cr)

A constant and impressive attacking threat from the FC Goa ranks

Udanta Singh (5.3cr)

Two-goal contributions so far this season

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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). 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.'