Last season, it were the Nizams who had the last laugh.
ATK Mohun Bagan will hope to book a place in the 2022-23 Indian Super League (ISL) final when they host Hyderabad FC in the second leg of playoffs. The two sides played out a goalless draw at the Gacchibowli Stadium last week.
As Juan Ferrando put it, this game is expected to be a proverbial ‘final’ in its own right. The team that shows the most mental strength and can take their chances clinically will be the ones to play the final in Goa.
ATK Mohun Bagan
The last time ATK Mohun Bagan reached the ISL finals was in 2021. For a team that heavily invests on improving their squad and has one of the most valuable squads, even a two-three-year trophy drought is underwhelming.
The Mariners are clear in their ambition to regularly play in AFC competitions and win ISL titles. The only way they can do that this season is by progressing to the final and winning it. A sense of déjà vu might be stirring around their camp, knowing they lost to Hyderabad FC in the ISL playoffs last season.
However, things are very different now. In the second leg, ATKMB play at the Salt Lake Stadium – where they’ve won 8 out of 11 ISL games played this season. The raucous crowd acts as a twelfth man, helping the team. Knowing how desperate ATKMB are to win the ISL title and get their ‘revenge’ on Hyderabad, winning this is a must – because ending their season with a home loss can be a damning mark to their season.
The last time Hyderabad FC faced ATKMB at Kolkata resulted in a narrow loss. After that, coach Manolo Marquez launched a scathing attack on his players. He had questioned their ambitions to defend their ISL title and had also slammed them for taking things lightly.
Post that, the Nawabs changed their fortunes and surged to a top-two finish in the league stages. They will hope to treat this as another critical juncture in their season. For that, Marquez will need to motivate his side to play to their best and smartly expose ATKMB’s weaknesses.
Hyderabad will need to be more clinical and defensively sturdier than they were in the first leg. If the Nawabs are to prove to everyone that they are anything but a ‘one-season wonder’ and have the calibre to strongly compete for titles every season – this is a must-win. They know that a bitter loss can act as a black mark to their heroics from this campaign.
Injury & Team News
Ashique Kuruniyan remains a major doubt after sustaining a bad injury against Odisha FC in the knockout tie. Hugo Boumous is likely to face a late fitness test too. Deepak Tangri and Joni Kauko are some of the ATKMB players out with long-term injuries.
ATK Mohun Bagan have faced Hyderabad FC nine times in the ISL (including the playoffs) and won on three occasions.
ATK Mohun Bagan – 3
Hyderabad FC – 2
Drawn – 4
ATK Mohun Bagan (4-2-3-1)
Vishal Kaith (GK), Asish Rai, Pritam Kotal, Slavko Damjanovic, Subashish Bose, Glan Martins, Carl McHugh, Manvir Singh, Hugo Boumous, Liston Colaco, Dimitri Petratos
Hyderabad FC (4-2-3-1)
Gurmeet Singh (GK), Nikhil Poojari, Chinglensana Singh, Odei Onaindia, Akash Mishra, Sahil Tavora, Joao Vicor, Mohammad Yasir, Borja Herrera, Halicharan Narazary, Bart Ogbeche
Player to Watch
Dimitri Petratos (ATK Mohun Bagan)
Hyderabad FC did a relatively good job of keeping Dimitri Petratos quiet in the first leg, not allowing him much room to operate. However, the Australian forward is a witty old fox that learns from every game and gets better. He’s been immaculate in home games for ATKMB this season, scoring in key games. He’s netted in the last two home games for the Mariners and gets a major boost of confidence with the crowd behind him.
Fans can expect him to be more involved and menacing in the final third at home. Petratos plays a major role in ATKMB’s attacks, dropping deep to help set up them and often finishing them too. With his brilliant set-piece quality, smart off-the-ball movement and the unpredictable final product – Petratos could create a storm in ATKMB’s attacks if given too much room to operate.
Mohammad Yasir (Hyderabad FC)
The exciting 24-year-old winger has enjoyed a prolific season with Hyderabad FC so far. He’s proven himself to be capable of thriving under pressure and performing on big occasions. While Yasir wasn’t at his best for the last game, he did create a few chances. Yasir will look to torment the occasionally erroneous Subashish Bose in this one. He’ll look to get into nice spaces on the right and swing in wonderful crosses to set up major chances.
Moreover, Yasir will also look to trouble with his excellent set-piece deliveries. The 24-year-old also has that unpredictable special goal in his arsenal and can trouble goalkeepers with his shots. If he can rediscover his swagger for this occasion, he could be decisive for the the Nawabs and make life very difficult for the ATKMB backline.
Did You Know?
- Asish Rai (49) has made more successful interceptions than anyone else in the ISL this season.
- Hyderabad FC are extremely reliant on crosses and have made the second-most successful crosses in the ISL this season (327).
- Vishal Kaith has already won the Golden Glove award for this season after getting his 11th clean sheet of the season.
- Hyderabad FC have also kept 11 clean sheets this season. But they’ve been distributed between Laxmikant Kattimani and Gurmeet Singh.
The match between ATK Mohun Bagan and Hyderabad FC will take place at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on March 13 (Monday). The kick-off time is 7:30 PM IST. The game will telecast live on the Star Sports Network. Disney+HotStar and JioTV will also stream the match.
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