The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 action returns to the hotbed of footballing fandom as the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi will witness the clash between the Kerala Blasters FC and Hyderabad FC to round off the Saturday doubleheader on November 25. An old rivalry will reignite, going back to the 2021-22 season, where Hyderabad FC edged past Ivan Vukomanovic’s team in the penalty shootouts of the season final to clinch the trophy that season.

With a contrasting run of form behind their back, both these clubs will have a common objective from this match, i.e. to get maximum points at all costs. Sitting second in the table, Kerala Blasters FC are naturally better placed to attain a victory, but Hyderabad FC and their supporters will hope that head coach Thangboi Singto will have worked his magic around the setup to turn around their fortunes for the season.

What’s at stake?

Kerala Blasters FC

The Tuskers have shown timely tactical awareness on both ends of the pitch to secure important victories in ISL 2023-24.

There is added responsibility on them whilst playing at home and Vukomanovic echoed those thoughts in a recent interaction with the league, saying, “We always have an obligation to show a little bit more than our opponents, whether we are playing home or away. Especially when we play at home, we have to show something else, that we are fighting for the logo, and we are fighting for the club, because that's a part of the identity of Kerala.”

A win in this match can temporarily take them to the top of the table, and that will be a big boost as the team goes about chasing their goals for the campaign.

Hyderabad FC

Hyderabad FC are winless in their last five away games and they are still seeking their first victory of this campaign. They have played out 1-1 draws in each of their last three games, and it is just that additional bit of efficiency and goal-scoring instinct upfront that can help them better these results. Singto must have had ample time to correct their mistakes during the halt as fans wait to see a renewed and rejuvenated Hyderabad FC unit after the international break.

Key Players

Dimitrios Diamantakos (Kerala Blasters FC)

The Greek forward has recorded a goal contribution in every 106 minutes of ISL 2023-24, which is the second fastest amongst all players to have played at least 300 minutes this season (only behind Jorge Pereyra Diaz at 86.2 minutes). The 30-year-old is sharp at putting balls into the back of the net but equally creative in carving open backlines with his timely assists. These traits make him a point of concern for the Hyderabad FC defensive unit.

Mohammad Yasir (Hyderabad FC)

Mohammad Yasir showed skillsets similar to a striker while bringing down a long ball and hammering it into the back of the net in the match against Bengaluru FC. Singto will bank heavily on the 25-year-old India international to both setup and finish off goal-scoring moves as Hyderabad FC look for answers to their woes in the frontline.

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Played – 9

Hyderabad FC – 5

Kerala Blasters FC – 4

Draws – 0

Trivia: Hyderabad FC forward Aaren D’Silva has attempted 11 shots from inside the 18-yard box without finding the back of the net in ISL 2023-24.

Team Talk

“They have been one of our most difficult opponents in the previous two years. Games against Hyderabad FC have always been the toughest. They are a very good team, with very good individuals; they were also our opponents two years ago in the finals. Seeing our rankings doesn’t matter right now, in this league anything is possible, anyone can beat anybody,” Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic remarked before the game.

“The break has been good in terms of getting fresher both physically and mentally. If you see the scores, we haven’t lost badly. There were some games where we could have gotten maximum points. Going to Kerala is always special. We know that Kerala is a place where football is on fire for everyone involved. Players want to play in that atmosphere. It’s always a good memory for them,” Hyderabad FC head coach Thangboi Singto said in the pre-match press conference.

ISL Fantasy

Top picks and players to watch out for

Adrian Luna (10.3cr)

Has scored thrice and notched two assists in six appearances this season

Sachin Suresh (4.1cr)

The goalkeeper has made eight clearances and maintained a 72% save percentage in ISL 2023-24

Joe Knowles (5.9cr)

The Australian attacker is a source of threat for the opposition’s backline with his quick footwork and eye for a goal

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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 SD & HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam) & 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.

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