The first leg of Indian Super League's (ISL) second semifinal is expected to bring up an intense contest of tactical and technical skills when Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan face each other at Bambolim on Saturday.
The two sides have given enough display of their abilities while sealing the second and third spots in the final league standings. The play-offs will now be testing their mental strength and composure. The team handling the stress better will be getting a ticket to the title contest.
Hyderabad will be starting as the favourite despite making its first appearance in the play-offs. The team has earned a lot of admiration as it brought up a string of successful outings to stay on the top of the standings for a fair amount of time in the season. Manolo Marquez, the Spanish head coach of the Nizams, showed the right acumen in managing his squad that scored the most number of goals (43) and conceded the second lowest (23) among the 11 sides in the fray.
At the heart of its attacking force was the seasoned Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche, who leads the individual scoring chart with 17 goals. But a bout of COVID-19 infections in the squad spoiled its chances of finishing at the top.
ATK Mohun Bagan, the last year’s runner-up, has also done well but injuries to key foreigners like Hugo Boumous, David Williams and Roy Krishna hindered its progress towards the business end of the tournament.
The team found salvation in the performances of its Indian contingent in Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh and Subhasish Bose, who have consistently done well to see the team through to its second successive play-off qualification.
It now remains to be seen how the Spanish gaffer Juan Ferrando prepares his forces in the battle array against Hyderabad FC.