Hyderabad up against NorthEast in final game of first leg

Manolo Marquez’s men keen to build on an impressive performance

Panaji, Goa: Having kicked off 2021 with a resounding victory over Chennaiyin, Hyderabad FC are back in action this Friday. They face Gerard Nus’ NorthEast United at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, in the last game of the first round of Indian Super League fixtures. HFC are currently sixth in the league table, with 12 points from nine games and have a chance to make it into the top-4 with a win, halfway through the league campaign.

NorthEast United are in seventh, just a point below Hyderabad and also have a chance to rise up the points table, making this game a crucial one for both sides.

“This is not a normal season and I think it is almost impossible to predict who will end in the top-4 places. But for us, we will have to take it step by step, and focus on our game against NorthEast”, said HFC’s Head Coach, speaking about his side’s chances of qualification.

The Highlanders have a strong squad at their disposal. The likes of Benjamin Lambot, Dylan Fox, Khassa Camara and Kwesi Appiah have all been consistent this season. Indian stars like Ninthoi, Lalengmawia, Gurjinder Kumar and Ashutosh Mehta have also been impressive, adding some balance to the squad.

“NorthEast are a well-organized side. They are a team with a lot of young players and a smart coach. Not just Appiah, Lambot, Apuia and Ninthoi, they have a lot of quality in their squad and are a dangerous side to face,” said Manolo.

“I know they have had a few poor results recently, but the performances were not bad and they can surely get a result from this game, and so can we,” he added.

Manolo Marquez also has a number of options for his Starting XI. Joel Chianese, Halicharan Narzary and Joao Victor were all amongst the goals against CFC and the Head Coach will hope that they can keep up the good work against NorthEast United.

The likes of Lluis Sastre, Odei Onaindia, Aridane Santana have also been ably supported by Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra, Asish Rai and Mohammad Yasir and will all be crucial for the side’s push into the top-4.

Fran Sandaza, who limped off in the game against Chennaiyin, is unavailable for this clash, confirmed Manolo. “He (Fran) is not ready for this game but it is not a huge injury and he could be back soon. (Nikhil) Poojary is also doubtful for this game and like Fran, could be back for our next game,” revealed Manolo, when asked about injury and team news.

While Hyderabad managed to arrest their three-match losing streak with a commanding victory over Csaba Lazlo’s side in the last game, the Highlanders have not registered a victory in any of their last five games, picking up just three points. But both teams are equally matched and could produce an exciting contest on Friday.

“Now we have more players available than at the start of the season. It is almost impossible to play with the same XI when the schedule is so tight so may be, we can change a few things up for this game,” concluded Manolo, giving a hint about the lineup he might field for this game.

The game kicks off at 7:30 pm on Friday and will be telecasted live on the Star Sports Network with live streaming on Disney+ Hotstar and JioTV.

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