Indian Super League, Round 1
Ahead of Hyderabad FC’s Indian Super League opener against Odisha FC, we take a quick look at the squads, the opponents’ form and the key players to look out for.
The Opponent Coach
Odisha FC replaced Josep Gombau with Stuart Baxter, a winner of league titles in Japan, Sweden and South Africa. He also won the Four Nations Cup with South Africa in 2018 and brings loads of experience to Odisha FC in his debut season in India.
A midfielder in his playing days, the 67-year-old loves to play an attractive brand of football.
Odisha FC has brought in notable names like Cole Alexander, Ravi Kumar, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, George D’Souza and Steven Taylor, who will all improve the squad. They did lose the likes of Aridane Santana and Xisco Hernandez but the additions of Marcelinho and Kamaljit Singh from Hyderabad FC and the retention of Manuel Onwu could be crucial for the Bhubaneswar-based side.
As already mentioned, Odisha FC have not only roped in some quality overseas players, but have also added some exciting young blood to their squad in the off-season. But it is no different to HFC, who have also signed some of the finest youngsters on display in the Indian football scene. The likes of Hitesh Sharma, Rohit Danu, Akash Mishra, Lalawmpuia, Liston Colaco and Mohammad Yasir have caught the eye for Hyderabad FC, while Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Shubham Sarangi, Nandhakumar Sekhar and Vinit Rai are the youngsters to watch out for from Odisha.
While Hyderabad FC faced defeat in games against Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United in the pre-season, they played a total of four games, and got the better of FC Goa and drew against Bengaluru FC, gaining some valuable game-time before the start of an unusual ISL season.
Baxter’s men played just the two friendlies, against Mumbai City FC and Chennaiyin FC, losing both games by a goal. The game against MCFC was an entertaining one that ended 3-2 and the manager will hope that his side can work on the positives and enter the first game of the season in a positive frame of mind.
The Key Men
Marcelinho (Odisha FC)
The leader of the assists chart in the ISL, Marcelinho was a part of the squad at Hyderabad FC last season, where he scored seven goals and registered a couple of assists for the side. He was also on target in both the pre-season games for the club and will be the biggest threat for HFC in this game.
Steven Taylor (Odisha FC)
One of many high profile signings in the ISL in 2020, Taylor comes to India after a solid season in the A-League. He is a strong and smart centre-back, a leader in the backline for Odisha and his battle with Aridane and Joel Chianese might be one to watch out for.
Vinit Rai (Odisha FC)
The 23-year old has been a part of the ISL since 2016 and has gained loads of experience in the Indian football circuit. He has 11 appearances for the national side, and was one of the most consistent players for Odisha in the previous edition of the competition. Fast and tricky, he will be a real test for the HFC backline.
Aridane Santana (Hyderabad FC)
Hyderabad FC’s recent signing, Aridane Santana was a commanding force for Odisha FC’s campaign last season with a total of nine goals despite a mid-season injury. He featured in both games against HFC last season, scoring a brace in the second clash. He also bagged a couple of goals in the pre-season for the club and will hope to make a strong start to the new campaign.
Lluis Sastre (Hyderabad FC)
A midfield enforcer, Sastre is a typical Spanish midfielder, who loves to control the tempo of the game. He has an impressive CV, is a game-changer on his day, and will be a real threat for Odisha FC in this opening clash.
Halicharan Narzary (Hyderabad FC)
An experienced Indian international, who relishes the responsibility of taking his team to victory, Narzary is a player most managers will love to have in their side. He is a bundle of energy, can play in the midfield or as an attacking winger, and will be effective at both sides of the field. Keeping him quiet will be crucial for Odisha FC’s chances in this clash.