The Nizams will look to build on their previous term’s performance in the upcoming campaign.

The Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Hyderabad FC are one of the teams to watch out for in the forthcoming season. The Nizams finished just outside the playoffs positions last term, setting for a fifth place finish with 29 points. FC Goa managed to secure fourth place with 31 points, but the season was full of positives for the club. The Nizams earned a lot of praise for their handling and development of young Indian players.

Manolo Marquez was exceptional in guiding the team to a fifth place finish. This was a major achievement for the outfit which finished at the bottom of the standings in their debut 2019/20 season. Going forward, this will be Hyderabad FC’s third season in the ISL, and could prove to be the most successful yet. The management has made several changes to the lineup, aiming to iron out the mistakes of the last campaign.

The club is showing incredible ambition and will most likely challenge for the four available playoffs positions. Let’s take a look at the club – their strengths & weaknesses, probable lineups, players to watch out for and more.

Last Season’s Performance: Fifth

The 2020/21 campaign was the most successful for Hyderabad FC in their two-season history as a football club. The club had a horrendous debut campaign as they finished at the bottom of the standings in 2019/20. The club rectified their mistakes last year and shocked many football enthusiasts by finishing at the fifth position at the league. Their resilience was the most notable quality, as the Nizams quickly became a tough team to beat due to their defensive unit.

Interestingly, young players like Asish Rai, Akash Mishra and Chinglensana Singh were part of the club’s defence, led by Odei Onaindia. By the end of the season, Hyderabad FC collected six wins, 11 draws and three defeats. Only FC Goa and NorthEast United FC were the two other teams from the league stage to suffer only three defeats. As mentioned before, Hyderabad FC missed playoffs qualification by only two points and that is a hurdle they will look to cross next season.

Pre-Season

Hyderabad FC played a few games in their own backyard before travelling to Goa for their final pre-season preparations. Their first game was against Mumbai’s Kenkre FC – which the club won 4-1. The friendlies in Goa consisted of matches against more recognised teams. Hyderabad won 4-2 against Salgaocar in their next friendly in Goa where the goalscorers were Javier Siverio, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Aaren D’Silva and Rohit Danu.

The next fixtures finished as 2-1 wins over Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala. The Nizams lost their last friendly 1-2 against Mumbai City and are scheduled to play against Odisha FC on 16 November 2021. 

Hyderabad FC also took part in the 2021 Durand Cup and were part of Group D with Gokulam Kerala, Assam Rifles and Army Red. The Nizams opened with a 5-0 win against Assam Rifles but conceded two defeats later as they were knocked out of the tournament. 

Coaching Staff

Manolo Marquez Hyderabad FC ISL 2021-22
The possession-based football employed by Marquez, which is true to his Spanish roots has proved successful at Hyderabad FC (via HFC Media)

Manolo Marquez was a last minute appointment at the club as Albert Roca was called up to be the part of Ronald Koeman’s coaching staff at FC Barcelona. Manolo, his cousin, agreed to take the job and lead Hyderabad FC in the seventh edition of the league.  

The Spaniard was a breath of fresh air last season and put his faith in young Indian players. It will be interesting to see how he sets up the team next season, with new players and new rules in play. Marquez has previously coached teams like RCD Espanyol B, UD Las Palmas, NK Istra and Ratchaburi FC among others. The possession-based football employed by Marquez, which is true to his Spanish roots has proved successful. 

The staff working with Marquez at the club are as follows:

Foreign Assistant Coach: Benito Montalvo
Indian Assistant Coach: Thangboi Singto
Technical Director: Thangboi Singto
Goalkeeping Coach: Marc Gabon
Fitness Coach: Jose Carlos Barroso Coll
Head performance analyst: Joy Gabriel

Transfer Dealings

Hyderabad FC have not made many changes but have brought in players in key positions. The club will rely on the experience of the foreigners and resilience of the local players in the forthcoming season.

Ins

In accordance with ISL rules, the number of foreigners in every team’s squad has been reduced from seven to six. Therefore, the foreign contingent at Hyderabad FC includes Juanan, Joao Victor, Edu Garcia, Joel Chianese, Bartholomew Ogbeche and Javi Siverio. Only Joao Victor and Joel Chianese are retainers from last season, rest are new arrivals. 

Aniket Jadhav, Aaren D’Silva, Gurmeet Singh, Pritam Singh, Mohammad Rafi, Abdul Rabeeh AK, Nim Dorjee Tamang, and more are the new local players in the squad. 

Outs

Several major names from the previous season have left the club. Figures like Odei Onaindia, Lluis Sastre, Aridane Santana, and Fran Sandaza have chosen to move on. As for the local players, Liston Colaco is a major departure, who has joined ATK Mohun Bagan for a hefty transfer fee. Sweden Fernandes, Adil Khan and Lalawmpuia have secured loan moves to NEROCA FC, SC East Bengal and Sudeva Delhi respectively. 

Tentative Squad

Goalkeepers:  Laxmikant Kattimani, Gurmeet Singh, Lalbiakhlua Jongte, Sankar Roy.
Defenders:  Chinglensana Singh, Juanan, Akash Mishra, Asish Rai, Dimple Bhagat, Nikhil Prabhu, Nim Dorjee, Pritam Singh.
Midfielders: Abhishek Halder, Abdul Rabeeh A K, Sahil Tavora, Edu Garcia, Halicharan Narzary, Hitesh Sharma, Joao Victor, Mark Zothanpuia, Mohammed Yasir, Nikhil Poojary, Souvik Chakrabarti.
Forwards: Aaren D’Silva, Aniket Jadhav, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Ishan Dey, Javier Siverio, Joel Chianese, Rohit Danu.

Tactical Formations

Primary: 4-2-3-1

Hyderabad FC ISL 2021-22
Hyderabad FC’s 4-2-3-1 setup for ISL 2021-22

Hyderabad FC preferred this formation throughout the 2020/21 campaign and also used it in the recent Durand Cup. The setup allows Marquez to build from the back and two pivots give incentive to the full-backs to contribute in the attacking third. 

Bartholomew Ogbeche would be the target man upfront with Edu Garcia taking up the No.10 role. Left-wing position will likely be occupied by Aniket Jadhav. The holding pivot position should ideally be filled by skipper Joao Victor and another Indian player alongside him, possibly Hitesh Sharma. It will be interesting to see how Marquez utilises Joel Chianese as well, who could either play as a No.10 or a winger.

Juanan will be the obvious choice in the center-back position with Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra and Asish Rai as his defensive unit. Laxmikant Kattimani would be the starter in the goalkeeper’s position. 

Alternative: 4-4-2

Hyderabad FC ISL 2021-22
Hyderabad FC’s 4-4-2 setup in ISL 2021-22

This is the 4-4-2 setup which could be used by Marquez as an alternative means. The defence remains the same. Souvik Chakraborty and Joao Victor will take up the holding pivot positions. Halicharan Narzary will feature as the left midfielder, and Joel Chianese will ply his trade on the right side.

Aniket Jadhav and Ogbeche would lead the forward line, Ogbeche as the main striker with the Indian youngster playing behind him.

Strengths

  • All of Ogbeche, Garcia, Chianese have proven their worth in the ISL. New arrivals like Siverio, Jadhav with current players like Narzary will make for a strong attacking force.
  • Retained their Indian defenders. The trio of Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra and Ashish Rai alongside Juanan could replicate last season’s defensive solidity.
  • Edu Garcia, in particular, is a very impressive signing. He is versatile and his creativity will play a vital role for the side to score goals, which was an issue in the 2020-21 season. 

Weaknesses

A number of new foreign faces in the starting lineup could lead to chemistry issues. Marquez would need to work to establish a teamwork reminiscent of last season. The team also has a lack of defensive depth. Only one foreign defender in Juanan could become an issue if the Spaniard picks up an injury. Joao Victor also needs an established Indian holding midfielder which is absent in the squad at the moment. 

The team is also heavily reliant on Ogbeche for goals. In a scenario if he has fitness issues, Siverio could end up shouldering the responsibility of scoring. It could be a lot of pressure for the 23-year-old Spaniard who is making his debut in the forthcoming season. 

Key Players To Watch

Bartholomew Ogbeche

Ogbeche Hyderabad FC
Ogbeche has scored 35 goals in the ISL till now, the third most in the league (via HFC Media)

The Nigerian is an outright star at the ISL. He was part of the ISL shield and ISL trophy winning Mumbai City FC squad last term. Ogbeche played a crucial role in these achievements made by the Islanders. He scored eight goals and made three assists in 23 matches for the Islanders. 

The Nigerian has scored 35 goals in the ISL till now, the third most in the league. The Nizams have made a statement of intent by signing the striker who will surely score many goals. 

Halicharan Narzary

Narzary displayed impressive performance last season. The winger scored four goals in 20 matches and also provided 54 crosses for the strikers to pounce on. The 27-year-old will hope to continue his brilliant form in the upcoming season.

Furthermore, Narzary is a relentless runner and falls back to provide cover to the defenders. Thanks to his generosity, full-backs are more comfortable in making overlapping runs to smash in low-crosses into the penalty box.

Javier Siverio

The 23-year-old Spaniard has been in good form in the pre-season for his new employers. He scored a brace against Kenkre FC and a goal against Salgaocar FC. Javier Siverio is full of energy and has joined the club from Las Palmas Atletico in Spain. The player has come through the youth ranks in Spanish academies and possesses brilliant technical qualities in his overall gameplay. 

Siverio is described as a natural finisher by most figures who have seen him play. He is making his debut in the ISL, and the factor of the unknown could work in his favour.

Fixtures

Hyderabad FC
Hyderabad FC’s ISL 2021-22 fixtures (till Round 11)

What To Expect

The Nizams will most certainly aim to improve on their last season’s performance. They are expected to be contenders for a playoffs spot and the rest of the teams will need to be wary of their threat. There were many positives to take from the previous season for the club and Manolo Marquez is experienced enough to keep the boys focused.

Hyderabad FC have performed brilliantly in the pre-season friendlies as well. They are a team to watch out in the upcoming edition of the ISL and could secure playoff qualification for the first time ever. Inclusion of proven ISL stars is a massive step in the right direction as well.

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