Winners of the last two ISL campaigns faceoff for a spot in the preliminary round of the AFC Cup
Hyderabad: At the end of what has been a tremendous campaign for both teams, Manolo Marquez’s Hyderabad FC and Juan Ferrando’s ATK Mohun Bagan are all set for the Hero Club Playoff clash for a spot in the preliminary round of the AFC Cup.
The match is scheduled for Wednesday, May 3rd, at the EMS Corporate Stadium in Kozhikode in what will be the final game of the top-flight Indian domestic football calendar for the 2022-23 season.
The Mariners managed to pip Hyderabad for a place in the Indian Super League final earlier this season on penalties, with both legs ending goalless. The two teams also won a game a piece in the regular season, leaving this clash right in the balance.
Ferrando’s men rode on the form of Dimitri Petratos and Hugo Boumous in attack while Vishal Kaith has been impossible to beat at the other end. The likes of Manvir Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan and Liston Colaco are also danger men, while Carl McHugh could yet be a game changer.
Speaking to the media ahead of this clash, HFC Head Coach Manolo Marquez said “This is a clash between two of the best defensive sides in the country. I think both teams know each other very well. They have slightly tweaked their style this season and have been more compact in defense.”
“It was difficult to create chances every time we faced them this season and I think it will be a tough game for us,” added the Spaniard.
Hyderabad FC, like the Mariners, were knocked out of the group stage of the Super Cup recently and have had plenty of time to train for this game.
The likes of Javi Siverio, Joel Chianese, Halicharan Narzary, Borja Herrera, Odei Onaindia and Chinglensana Singh were all in fine form in the competition and will look to put in their best performance, for one last time in the campaign.
But with a big gap between their last Super Cup game and this Playoff tie, Coach Manolo believes that it will be tough for both teams to be at their best.
“There was no reason to not be playing this game a week earlier, with both teams out of the Super Cup. But I think all the players from both sides are professionals and have been training really hard for all these days,” said Manolo.
“It is tough to be very good, but that is the case with both teams. So I am sure this will be yet another close game between these two sides,” he added.
Hyderabad will be without the services of both their first choice shot-stoppers Laxmikant Kattimani (injury) and Gurmeet Singh (suspension) but the Head Coach will hope that his side has what it takes to hold the Mariners.
This is the ninth time Manolo Marquez will face the Kolkata giants since moving to India and he will hope to end this season on a positive note.
This Hero Club Playoff will kick off at 7:00 pm IST on Wednesday and will be telecasted live on Sony Sports 2 with live streaming on Fancode.