Odisha have beaten Hyderabad FC twice in four meetings.

Depending on how Mumbai City’s ISL 2021-22 clash against NorthEast United FC go on Monday, Hyderabad FC could be eyeing the top spot when they play Odisha FC at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim. Manolo Marquez’s side are fourth in the points standings, but only three points separate them from Mumbai. A defeat for the Islanders and a win for Hyderabad FC on Tuesday could take them to the summit. For Kiko Ramirez’s men, the real aim will be to enter the top four and a win can get them there.

Odisha FC are currently at seventh with 10 points from seven games. From the same number of matches, Hyderabad have two more points. Both teams also have three wins each so far in ISL 2021-22. Ahead of their match, HFC coach Manolo Marquez and OFC boss Kiko Ramirez spoke to the media and shared their thoughts on the upcoming fixture.

Hyderabad FC

Expectations from Odisha FC match

In four meetings in the ISL, Hyderabad FC have won just one match against Odisha FC. The Nizams, however, went unbeaten last season against Odisha, winning the first meeting and drawing the other. Coach Marquez expects a difficult game. He believes, the Juggernauts have the best foreign contingent among all teams in the ISL.

“it’s a very difficult game. For me, Odisha have the best foreign players in the league, even better than the teams at the top. I know the coach because he’s my friend, I know some players because they are from Spain. But it’s difficult to know the ISL in your first season, likewise with me in my first season last year. Of course, they have a strong team, and they can beat any team, but then again, we can beat them,” observed the Spaniard.

Thoughts on being one of the favourites to make the playoffs

Hyderabad are among the odd favourites to reach the playoffs this season. The Nizams are already in the top four and can consolidate their position with a win on Tuesday. Coach Manolo Marquez, however, thinks otherwise. “According to me, we are not one of the favourites to qualify for the top four because we have one of the lowest budgets in the competition,” he says.

“Maybe there are 5-6 teams that can sign players. But I understand how football works and we know what it takes to finish in the top four. I don’t know if we have a good style of play. However, I know there are expectations for our side to make it to the top four like in other countries. No top four means our season has been bad. We will fight till the end, but ultimately only the four teams can qualify, so we are trying,” added the 53-year-old. “We are in a good position, but we can definitely play better at this moment.”

Lowest goals conceded in ISL 2021-22

Hyderabad FC have conceded the fewest goals so far this season, having shipped in only six goals in seven games. They have scored double that number. Manolo Marquez believes if his side can concede the fewest goals this season, they will be in the top four come the business end of the competition.

“If we get to be the team that concedes the least number of goals, for sure, we will arrive to the top four,” asserted the HFC coach. “As a team, we need to be safe in defense and at the moment we are working very well, but not only in terms of goalkeeping but also as an overall team.”

Odisha FC

Thoughts on Hyderabad FC’s performance

Kiko Ramirez likes Hyderabad FC’s style of play. Having faced them in the pre-season, Kiko is also confident Odisha FC can counter-attack their strengths and take advantage.

“Of course, we like their style of play. Good friends with Manuel (Marquez). We faced them in the pre-season. They manage the ball well and don’t take many risks,” said the fellow Spaniard talking about his opposite number. “They know how to create dangerous situations for opposition. We have analysed them and know how to counter-attack their strengths.

“They are a compact team and have been together for a long time and know each other. They are in a good momentum and rank higher in the table. Hyderabad also have a good striker who’s in good shape.”

What has gone wrong for Odisha?

Odisha FC started the season with a bang winning their first two matches by big margins. They thrashed Bengaluru FC kick-start their season and followed it with a 6-4 victory over SC East Bengal. But since then, the Juggernauts have won only once in their last five matches. Three of those five matches have been defeats. Odisha were held by FC Goa in their last game.

“The competition is intense so you can’t win all the matches. Anyways we are not far from the top four,” said Kiko. “After seven matches we are happy that we are only three points away from the top four spot despite playing one game less. “

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