Bengaluru FC (BFC) will have another chance to clear the fog that has settled over its game when it meets Hyderabad FC at Tilak Maidan in Goa on Thursday.
The 2018-19 ISL champion is winless in seven games, a run that has included five defeats, and hasn’t kept a clean sheet in its last ten matches. Hyderabad, on the other hand, is unbeaten in five and has kept two clean sheets in that period.
Hyderabad FC takes on Bengaluru FC: LIVE BLOG
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But so tightly bunched are teams this time around, that Hyderabad, though fourth in the league, has just four points more than BFC’s tally of 14.
“I think at this moment, the competition is equal,” opined Hyderabad coach Manuel Marquez, on match-eve. “There are a lot of draws and it’s difficult because practically all the teams are fighting to get into the top-four. I think all the teams have a possibility.”
Hyderabad, under Marquez, has played some eye-catching pass-and-move football. Propelled by Aridane Santana’s six goals and one assist, and Joel Chianese’s two goals and one assist, the side boasts of an array of impressive Indian attackers in Halicharan Narzary (3 goals), Mohammed Yasir and Liston Colaco (2 goals).
It will be interesting to see BFC’s approach; whether it will play deep and disrupt Hyderabad’s offensive patterns or take the attack to its opponent. Naushad Moosa’s side has faltered in both departments this season – conceding early in a majority of games and struggling to score. Striking the right balance will be the interim manager’s biggest test.
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“Hyderabad press well and move the ball well between the lines,” Moosa said. “We want to stop that and at the same time use the spaces they leave. We have to attack as well. Scoring has been our main concern. We are missing a No.9, a player like Miku. Sunil [Chhetri] is now playing more in the centre, with Cleiton [Silva]. We are focussing on finishing drills. It takes time, but we will get there.”
Harmanjot Khabra, after missing two games because of a hamstring injury, is back in training for BFC, while Xisco Hernandez, brought in induce some much-needed creative spark, will be in mandatory quarantine until February 2. If the outfit can find its feet before the Spaniard is ready, the quest for a top-four spot will receive a big boost.