Can Hyderabad scale new heights under Manolo Marquez Roca?
Formed in 2019, Hyderabad had a shoddy first season in the Indian Super League but bounced back brilliantly in the last campaign. Spanish manager Manolo Marquez Roca guided the team to a respectable fifth position, and more importantly, helped a bunch of Indian players realize their hidden potential.
However, the job is only half done as Roca’s next aim is to take the club to the playoffs. The Nizams are all geared up for the upcoming season, as they look to challenge the big boys in the league.
A look at last season’s performance
Hyderabad enjoyed its best season in ISL 2020-21 under the stewardship of Roca as they clinched fifth place in the league. Although they failed to make it to the playoffs, not many would have expected them to fight for a top-four slot all throughout the season, and only fall short by a couple of points.
They are a team known for being a hub for young and talented Indians, as players like Asish Rai, Liston Colaco, and Akash Mishra have flourished at the club. The youngsters share a great understanding with the gaffer, which is reflected through their performances on the field. With only a bit of consistency and maturity, Roca could guide his side to the playoffs for the first time in the club’s history.
New Signings ahead of the 2021-22 ISL season
The Nizams have retained the services of Spanish midfielder Joao Victor and Australian forward Joel Chianese from last season. For the upcoming edition, Roca has mainly targeted experienced ISL players like Juanan Gonzalez, Edu Garcia, and Bartholomew Ogbeche, who will add some much-needed experience to his young squad.
All three of them have been very successful for their former teams in the ISL and will look to replicate that form in the yellow shirt. The only new foreign acquisition for Hyderabad this season is Spanish forward Javi Siverio. The 23-year-old youngster has featured in the youth teams of Las Palmas and Racing Santander and is predominantly known for his raw pace and nifty footwork.
Among domestic players, the biggest arrival has to be former India U17 international Aniket Jadhav. The youngster has had a good stint with Jamshedpur and now will look to better his game under the tutelage of Roca. Domestic signings include Nim Dorjee Tamang, Pritam Singh, Mohammad Rafi, Gurmeet Singh, and Aaren D’Silva will provide the Spaniard with plenty of options to choose from in the forthcoming season.
Predicted Starting Lineup
Laxmikant Kattimani; Asish Rai, Juanan Gonzalez, Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra; Joao Victor, Hitesh Sharma; Mohammed Yasir, Edu Garcia, Halicharan Narzary; Bartholomew Ogbeche.
Looking at their roster this season, Hyderabad’s think tank deserves applause for packing the squad with experienced foreigners. All of Ogbeche, Juanan, Garcia, Victor, and Chianese have ISL experience, while some of them have even had the chance to get their hands on the trophy. The overseas stars look to guide the youngsters in the forthcoming season.
The Nizams not only have a strong foreign contingent but a fantastic young domestic core as well, which features the likes of Asish Rai, Akash Mishra, Mohammed Yasir, Hitesh Sharma, Rohit Danu, and Chinglensana Singh.
Roca’s side has a pretty evident weakness, which is the lack of depth and experience in their defense. They have only one foreign defender in Juanan and if the Spaniard ever gets injured, things will get rough for the Nizams as Roca doesn’t have many experienced options among Indians as well.
The Nizams manager will opt for Chinglensana Singh to partner with the former Bengaluru defender but the other defensive options lack experience and perhaps are not ready to feature regularly at the big stage yet.
Youngsters like Tamang and Rafi would be looking to grab their chances as and when available but Roca would want his experienced duo of Sana Singh and Juanan to be fit and healthy for the entire season. There is no doubt about the potential of Rafi and Tamang but without Juanan, Hyderabad could struggle a bit in defense.
From being the basement boys of the league to actively participating in the race for the playoffs, Hyderabad took a giant leap last season. Roca nurtured a bunch of raw and inexperienced Indian youngsters and turned them into players who can represent the nation in the future.
Quite understandably, the Hyderabad fans and team management will have renewed faith and belief in their head coach and players. Having roped in tried and tested foreigners, it is clear that Hyderabad is aiming to take another leap and qualify for the playoffs. That being said, they will need to replicate their resilience and zeal from the last season to achieve their goal.