Punjab FC will travel to face Hyderabad FC at the Gachibowli Stadium on Tuesday, in the 17th Matchweek of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24.

Placed 11th in the points table, the league debutants have 14 points from 15 games, six behind (20) the sixth-placed Jamshedpur FC, though they have two games in hand (15) as compared to the Red Miners (17).

However, that was preceded by successive 3-1 wins against Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC, which suggested that better things are in store for the team in the second half of the campaign.

Their opponents Hyderabad FC is undergoing a difficult period, with four draws and 12 losses depriving them of even a single win in 16 matches until now.

They have been actively seeking for a turnaround, but things just haven’t worked out well. Bengaluru FC produced a late thriller to win 2-1 against them in their previous clash, but that match was the first time they scored a goal after five games, which should infuse at least a little confidence and belief within them.

What’s at stake?

Hyderabad FC

One of Hyderabad FC’s four draws this campaign was against Punjab FC, which was a 1-1 clash in November. However, their struggles at the front have been glaring thus far.

Hyderabad FC has not netted in any of their last five home matches, which is the longest such run for any team in the competition. To make matters worse, they have given away multiple goals in four of the five games in this stretch.

Their success in some parts of the gameplay isn’t necessarily reflecting in the points tally. For example, the team has won 53.2% of their duels in the current ISL season, emerging victorious in 690 out of the 1298 contested duels so far in the competition.

This is the highest such rate of any side in the ISL 2023-24. However, until they find answers to their problems upfront, the coveted three points will continue to elude them.

Punjab FC

Punjab FC has been on a formidable run on the road recently, remaining unbeaten in their last three away matches.

They have won once and drawn twice in those games, and netted multiple times in two out of three of those encounters.

The side needs to focus on starting games on a stronger note, being the only team that is yet to find the back of the net in the first 15 minutes of their matches thus far.

Their admirable frontline comprising Wilmar Jordan Gil, Luka Majcen, Madih Talal, amongst others have ensured that their shooting accuracy of 57% in the ISL since the start of 2024 is the highest amongst all teams.

21 out of 37 of their shots (excluding blocks) have hit the target, with the team scoring on six occasions. They try and create goal-scoring opportunities from set-pieces, with Talal playing a major role in the same by drawing 2.9 fouls per match this season.

Will they find the breakthrough from a free-kick again in the coming clash?

Key Players to Watch Out

Ramhlunchhunga (Hyderabad FC)

Ramhlunchhunga broke Hyderabad FC’s unfortunate streak of going five games without scoring a goal with his 80th minute strike against Bengaluru FC on Saturday.

He pounced upon a fumble by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to hammer the ball in and equalise the scores.

Overall, the player has played 10 games for Hyderabad FC in ISL 2023-24, creating five goal-scoring opportunities, earning eight fouls, intercepting five times, and taking 14 shots. 64.28% of those shots have been on target, and Ramhlunchhunga also averages 21 passes per game at 75% accuracy.

Can he spark a slight turn in the fortunes of Hyderabad FC? The coming six games for them will tell.

Madih Talal (Punjab FC)

The French playmaker has been the creator-in-chief for Punjab FC in the current campaign. He has scored twice, assisted four times, and earned 44 fouls with his fleet footedness in 15 league appearances until now.

Madih Talal has made six interceptions, taken 32 shots, and created 35 goal-scoring opportunities until now.

With 80% accuracy, he averages 32 passes per game. Talal is symbolically the fulcrum holding the Punjab FC unit together, connecting the deep midfield to the forward line, chipping in consistently with contributions upfront.

Talal will again be the key in supplying deliveries to the duo of Wilmar Jordan Gil and Luka Majcen, hoping that the in-form strikers push Hyderabad FC back early on in the proceedings.

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Played – 1

Hyderabad FC – 0

Punjab FC – 0

Draws – 1

Trivia: Punjab FC defender Suresh Meitei is averaging five clearances per game in the current ISL campaign, the second highest such aggregate for any Indian player in the competition after Sandesh Jhingan (5.6 clearances per game).

Team Talk

“We scored a goal in the last match after a long time. We could have netted more goals from the chances we created previously, but it’s obviously a big advantage because it gives us more opportunities to score goals (in the coming matches,” Hyderabad FC head coach Thangboi Singto said in the pre-match press conference.

“A week-long break before games always helps. You do better recuperation from the previous game, prepare better plans for the week before the game, and make good tactical changes, so it always helps a lot,” Punjab FC head coach Staikos Vergetis reflected upon the reasonable gap that his players got to get ready for the coming encounter.

ISL Fantasy

Gurmeet Singh (3.7cr)

One of the better domestic performers for Hyderabad FC this season.

Makan Chothe (4cr)

Took the shot that produced the rebound off which Ramhlunchhunga scored in the last game.

Madih Talal (5.4cr)

Six goal contributions in ISL 2023-24.

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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.