Hyderabad FC have a huge hole at the back and the only one who could fill it is at FC Goa…
Only two teams among FC Goa, Hyderabad FC and NorthEast United can fill in the two remaining 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) semi-finals’ spots after Mumbai City and ATK Mohun Bagan confirmed their berths earlier in the season.
With the final round of games amid the race to finish in the top four, the Gaurs (30 points) are slightly in an advantage given that they have more points than Hyderabad (28) and currently a better goal difference against NorthEast United.
NorthEast United (4th, 30 points) drew level on points with Goa courtesy a 2-1 win over East Bengal on Tuesday as the Highlanders now need just a point from their last game against Kerala Blasters on Friday, while Hyderabad are left in a must-win situation when they face Goa on Sunday.
All three of the remaining play-off contenders have dropped points thrice in their respective last five games but it’s Hyderabad’s 2-2 draw against ATK Mohun Bagan that has not given Mumbai City a lifeline to fight for the top spot against the Mariners but left Manuel Marquez’s side handicapped with the events that transpired in the said fixture.
Aridane Santana picked his fourth yellow card of the game and will hence be suspended for the game against Goa. The Spaniard scored 10 of Hyderabad’s 27 goals this season but his compatriot in Fran Sandaza brings something different to the table and has scored four times in 10 games. There are other options in attack as well.
However, with Asish Rai ruled out for the rest of the season after the knee injury he sustained in the 1-1 draw against East Bengal a couple of weeks ago and Adil Khan having moved to Goa on a short-term deal in January, Marquez is left with no other experienced defender to slot in for Chinglensana Singh who was given the marching orders in Hyderabad’s last match.
Sahil Panwar, who is traditionally a left-back, looks like the only available bet to partner Odei Onaindia at the back because a three-man back-line is a highly unlikely proposal. However, there is a possibility that Joao Victor will partner Onaindia at the back instead. Nikhil Poojari has also shown that he can play as a right-back.
While Hyderabad have shown this season that they are a spirited team, they will have to shore up the defence in what is a crunch game.
FC Goa also have a conundrum when it comes to picking their overseas players. It remains to be seen whether Cesar Ferrando opts to go with Jorge Ortiz or Alberto Noguera to play with Igor Angulo, or whether both start together.
The last time the two sides face in the reverse fixture in December, Igor Angulo and Ishan Pandita scored two late goals for Goa after Aridane had given Hyderabad the lead. But ever since, Juan Ferrando’s FC Goa have kept just the one clean sheet in 10 games.
As explained earlier, FC Goa got a crucial win in the race for the play-offs when they defeated Bengaluru FC 2-1 last weekend but they need to plug their defence – something that Hyderabad will be looking to exploit on Sunday.