Hyderabad FC and NorthEast United FC will eye bouncing back from defeats on the road in their respective previous encounters as they face each other at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on December 10, Sunday.

Hyderabad FC have a lot of thinking to do, after a change in the coaching setup in the summer along with an influx of new players giving a new-look to a side that were title contenders until last year. This time around, they are still winless after eight games, having drawn thrice and lost five times so far.

The fact that they have often appeared to be unconvincing whilst moving forward would concern head coach Thangboi Singto. The team has a decent core to build their base on, including multiple Indian youngsters who have thrived previously for them like Mohammad Yasir, Chinglensana Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Hitesh Sharma, amongst others.

Their foreign contingent does not seem to lack quality either, with someone like Joe Knowles being a sight to savour when on song. However, the entire unit has not clicked simultaneously, which has always left them short of what’s needed at the end of every encounter.

They face the Highlanders, whose inspired start to the season met a halt in the form of a 5-0 loss to East Bengal FC in Kolkata on Monday. The nature of the defeat must have hit Juan Pedro Benali more than the loss itself. Recovering from such setbacks quickly is essential to prevent the team from succumbing into a downward spiral, and Benali will be hoping to make amends for that in Guwahati.

What’s at stake?

NorthEast United FC

The Highlanders still find themselves within the top-six spots after the aforementioned result, which shows that all is not lost for NorthEast United FC, though it might appear to be so especially in the immediate aftermath of the previous game.

Benali has helped bring about visible improvements in their style of play, outputs across all areas of the field, exciting the fans with some laudable on-field action and reinvigorating their spirits and hopes after a disappointing campaign last time around. They are unbeaten in their last three games at home, which reflects that they thrive off the atmosphere created by their spectators from the stands.

Block by block, Benali is building a project at the club, finally giving them a sense of direction after years of disarray as to where they were heading. It is essential that they do not let the previous loss take a toll on them, and instead use that to inspire a resurgence and get on a roll of good results instead.

Watch the highlights from NorthEast United’s last match here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDvwFR59f0I

Hyderabad FC

Hyderabad FC can draw significant confidence from their impressive record against NorthEast United FC, having been unbeaten in their last seven matches against them, which included wins in six of them.  All of those victories have been convincing, with Hyderabad FC scoring thrice or more in each of the six triumphs. Perhaps, this is the ideal fixture for them to find their goal-scoring form, having netted only four times in eight games so far.

They had managed to take the game against the Mohun Bagan Super Giant down the wire to be fair, with the sheer quality in the Mariners’ outfit coming through in the end courtesy of goals by Brendan Hamill and Asish Rai.

However, until the 85th minute, it was anybody’s game for the taking. Hyderabad FC have often been in such delicate situations throughout this season, but a continuous inability to make the most of those brief moments have culminated in them finding their name at the bottom of the table. For any side, it is essential that they sense a window of opportunity and optimise that, time and again, to go a far way in a competitive tournament such as the ISL.

Watch the highlights from Hyderabad FC’s last encounter here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGdNq6u0M1Y&t=3s

Key Players

Parthib Gogoi (NorthEast United FC)

The young attacker has three goals to his name in seven appearances this season, but he has been equally important in building up plays for NorthEast United FC. Gogoi has created 11 goal-scoring opportunities from open play so far in this campaign, which is the highest by any Indian player in the league.

However, the 20-year-old has not found the back of the net in his last four games, as teams seem to be closing him down from outside the box by putting a marker near him to deprive him of meaningful chances of shooting from distance.

For him to evolve into an all-round forward, Gogoi will want to be as involved in developing chances for his teammates as he is in converting them consistently. He helps the Highlanders embrace a more direct attacking approach occasionally, adding an important layer in their gameplay. Rest assured, the player will want to get back amongst goals against Hyderabad FC.

Mark Zothanpuia (Hyderabad FC)

The Hyderabad FC midfielder has not been a regular presence at the centre of the park. However, he has made his presence felt whenever he has taken on the field. Zothanpuia has one assist in five appearances to his name. He has created eight goal-scoring chances, which is the most amongst all Hyderabad FC players.

With an average of 30 passes and 80% accuracy per game, Zothanpuia is a livewire who can get the game going and set the tempo by initiating passing patterns. He can also deliver lateral deliveries into the box, thus opening up opportunities for forwards and onrushing midfielders. Simultaneously, he puts in a decent defensive shift as well, but Hyderabad FC can benefit from his creative inputs moving forward in the field.

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Played – 8

NorthEast United FC – 1

Hyderabad FC – 6

Draw – 1

Trivia: Hitesh Sharma is one appearance away from completing 50 matches for Hyderabad FC.

Team Talk

“It’s the same as losing 1-0 in the last minute. It’s a result that will make us not very good before, and not very bad now. We are still growing. I hope it was a one-time accident and it doesn’t come again,” NorthEast United FC head coach Juan Pedro Benali said about their 5-0 loss to East Bengal FC.

“The only thing we can do as a team when we are not winning games, when we are playing well but not getting goals upfront, is that we can keep trying. We have done that as a team, we have trained in the best possible way, but the biggest thing for us is that the players are still very positive,” Hyderabad FC tactician Thangboi Singto remarked in the pre-match press conference.

ISL Fantasy

Parthib Gogoi (5.2cr)

Three goals in seven appearances this ISL season

Joe Knowles (5.5cr)

Constant goal-scoring threat from the Hyderabad FC unit

Mohammad Yasir (7.2cr)

Has scored once in eight matches in this campaign

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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.