Hyderabad FC are yet to defeat ATK Mohun Bagan in the ISL.

The stage is set at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim. Finally, after three seasons of hard work and dedication Hyderabad FC are into the playoffs of the Indian Super League. They’ll be facing Juan Ferrando-led ATK Mohun Bagan, who have been through sublime form in the past weeks. Manolo Marquez will be hopeful of the best possible result in the first leg of the playoff.

Hyderabad FC enjoyed a brilliant league stage. The Nizams were one of the favourites to bag the League Winners’ Shield but a COVID outbreak in the camp led to the unavailability of several key players.

Meanwhile, ATK Mohun Bagan too, could have ended at the top of the table but a loss against Jamshedpur FC not only ended their 15-match unbeaten run but also hopes of bagging the Shield.

Prior to the match, head coaches Manolo Marquez and Juan Ferrando addressed the media and shared their thoughts.

Hyderabad FC Head coach Manolo Marquez

Preparations for game

Manolo Marquez: First of all, we are recovering maximum players after COVID attacked our squad. In terms of physical condition, we have to wait until the last minute and see how the team is. I think we are ready, prepared to play a very good team.

Confidence heading into semis

Manolo Marquez: It’s a good part that you have reached the semi-final for the first time, are waiting for the game and the other part is seeing how you can play as you can be very nervous. Our team is full of young, brave players and we have to enjoy this historic moment for Hyderabad FC.

Importance of continuity

Manolo Marquez: Continuity is needed in every team in the world. We did not need to change the players. In terms of continuity and the ISL allowing only four foreigners, we had to take advantage of this, especially at the beginning of the competition. We lost the first game against Chennaiyin, but after that, our team performed very well. There were some teams that reacted late and we took advantage of this. This is a game of not 90 minutes but 180 or more. We have to be focused on winning the round in the first leg.

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The secret ingredient

Manolo Marquez: I think we have the respect of the other teams, about our players and how we play. We need to play a good game, if we want to have the chances that we had against big teams like ATK Mohun Bagan. Finally, the four teams that finish in the top four are the real table. If we have good physical conditions, I think we will be able to play two good games. 

Proud of players who got called up

Manolo Marquez: I am very satisfied but the club, the city and the fans have to be proud of these players (those getting called up for the national camp). It is the result of the good job that they are doing in the last two seasons. We have good young Indian players, with experienced foreigners. This is a good mix. This is the reason why (Igor) Stimac called six of our players.

ATK Mohun Bagan Head Coach Juan Ferrando

Struggling to score from corners

Juan Ferrando: No, I think it’s not necessary to do that. Of course, we haven’t had much success from it, but there’s no time to focus on just one detail. In football, there are a lot of details. In the end, sometimes it can be successful and sometimes not. Sometimes, it’s necessary to change details, but I repeat again, it’s not easy to do that when you don’t have that many training sessions and a lot of games are so close to each other.

Thoughts on Hyderabad FC

Juan Ferrando: We’re playing against a very good team and a very good squad. I think Hyderabad after 20 games this season, they will play without pressure and they’ll want to enjoy the playoffs. Now, that’s the reason why it’ll be a few difficult games. They’ll want to enjoy, but it’s not disrespectful, there won’t be any funny moments because of course they want to win and do their best. I think this season has been perfect for Hyderabad FC.

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Stopping Hyderabad’s influential foreign players

Juan Ferrando: I know their strengths because they’re working together all through the season. When you prepare for one team and when you’re working in the same way for two years, this results in success and it’s normal that they’re confident, they’re at a good level. I hope this is also the same case for us when we’re working together for two seasons.

Rating talented Indian youngsters at HFC

Juan Ferrando: I know their talents. It’s not only for the job of the players, of course they’re improved a lot, but I think it’s important to talk about the scouts of Hyderabad FC. They’ve found some good players. They know about the performances of these players and that’s why the coaching staff have worked so much with these young players and this is the result of that. For us, it’s the same, in the case of Sumit (Rathi), (Ravi) Rana and Abhishek (Suryavanshi), it’s important to work with them because they have talent and the most important is to try to help them with every training session.

Roy Krishna’s underwhelming form

Juan Ferrando: I think the case with Roy and everyone in the squad, it’s necessary to talk about what was a very difficult season. He was out of the squad after testing positive for COVID-19. He was out of the squad after getting injured and out of the squad because after COVID it was sometimes necessary to rest him to prevent further injuries. To talk about the statistics or performance of the players, be it Roy, Prabir (Das) or even the goalkeepers, it’s the same. It’s been a very difficult season. For me, it’s a season that might need to be deleted because it’s difficult to work in these conditions.

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