Hyderabad: It’s been decades since Hyderabad figured in top flight football, and aficionados in the city would be ‘kicked’ when Hyderabad Football Club turn up at the Gachibowli Stadium here on Saturday night to match their wits against Kerala Blasters in their first home game of the Indian Super League.
Not quite a position to be in though. Having lost both their matches — against ATK and Jamshedpur FC — Hyderabad are sitting at the bottom of the league with no points to their credit. They have scored just one goal — courtesy Marcelo against Jamshed-pur — and have let in eight for a dismal goal difference of -7, the worst among 10 teams.
The Pearl City pack need to shine, and do justice to the Kohinoor diamond-inspired logo on the jersey. Manager Phil Brown sees light. “There’s only one way we can go from here — up,” he said at the pre-match press conference on Friday.
To be fair, Hyderabad have been hit by injuries and exclusion, making the task harder. Key players like Bobo, Giles Barnes, Sahil Panwar and Rafael Gomez are recovering while Nestor Gordillo is serving suspension. “We have a team full of injuries and fortunately (Brazilian) Marcelo is not one of them. Some of our bigger players are sitting in the stands. Robin (Singh, striker) will get the benefit when they are fit. Once the treatment room clears out, you will see the difference,” Brown pledged.
“We have had very difficult games away, but the players have been working really, really hard every day. There’s lot to work with as far as the team is concerned. Once we get our strongest team out, we can start talking about defence, midfield and attack. Give us a chance to breathe and we will show you a different brand of football,” Brown vowed, adding, “We are a new brand and want to represent Hyderabad, make the people of this city feel proud of us, but it will take time for us to gel together. Hopefully we can fill that beautiful stadium at some stage of the season with our performance.”
The Englishman also revealed that Tollywood actor and team co-owner Rana Daggubati had a pep talk with players at the stadium on Friday.
Kerala, on the other hand, are seventh on the table with three points from two games and would be keen to inch their way north. It’s early days yet but only the top four qualify for the play-offs. The Blasters burst out of the blocks to beat ATK in the opener but were pipped by Mumbai City at home in the next game. The visitors are also without some key players after injuries to midfielder Mario Arques and central defender Sandesh Jhingan.
Manager Eelco Schattorie feels they are better off though. “Hyderabad have a lot of injuries, it is never easy when you don’t have your strongest possible set up. We are not that worse, but I am also not playing with my strongest possible unit — all my foreign players are not fully fit,” he said.
Team strength is tilted towards the Kerala Blasters and Hyderabad FC could in all probability be punished. However, football would emerge winner right after the first whistle is blown — having come home!...