East Bengal vs Hyderabad: Preview and Prediction
After a good outing in the Durand Cup which saw them making it all the way into the final, East Bengal has had an anti-climactic start to their new league campaign, under the stewardship of Carles Cuadrat.
In their first match against a relatively weaker opponent in Jamshedpur, East Bengal could only play out a 0-0 draw keeping them at fifth in the league standings and they will be desperate to get to winning ways.
On the other hand, this will be a new beginning for Hyderabad, who will be playing their first match in the competition. It has not been long since Hyderabad was regarded as the team to beat in this competition, because of their victorious 2021-2022 ISL campaign, but many star players have left the team since then.
With Manolo Marquez, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Akash Mishra, Joel Chianese, Javi Siviero, Rohit Danu, and Halicharan Narzary making their way from the exit door, the 2023-24 season will mark the start of a new era at the club.
What have they done so far?
As mentioned earlier, East Bengal came into the new season with their head held high, having qualified for the final of the 2023 Durand Cup, although they lost to arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant in a Kolkata Derby to miss out on silverware. But having said that, their start in the new ISL campaign has not been promising at all.
Up against Jamshedpur, who are comparatively weaker than the Torchbearers in nearly every aspect, Cuadrat’s team had to settle for a point. They had plenty of chances to score and had 10 attempts overall, but poor finishing meant that the match ended 0-0. On the flip side, while they did keep a clean sheet, the defense did not look as leakproof as the Spanish tactician would ideally prefer against stronger teams.
Hyderabad did not have all of their new recruits playing in the 2023 Durand Cup, but even with the team they had, they will be disappointed by their performance. Coached officially by Thangboi Singto, who happens to be the only Indian coach for an ISL team this season, the strings for the Nizams are being pulled by an Irishman – Conor Nestor.
In the Durand Cup, they finished second in their group and hence failed to qualify for the quarter-final stage. They drew their first match against I-League opponent Delhi, but in their second match, ISL side Chennaiyin handed the Nizams a 1-3 defeat. Although Singto’s team defeated Nepal’s Tribhuvan Army in their last match by a 3-0 margin, it was not enough to warrant a quarter-final slot.
Head to Head Record
There is a huge mismatch between the two teams when it comes to head-to-head records. The sides have met six times in the league, with Hyderabad winning four of those matches and the other two games ending as ties.
The last clash between Hyderabad and East Bengal, which was in January this year, saw the Nizams winning by a 2-0 margin with the departed Javier Siverio and Aaren D’Silva scoring the goals.
Considering his team was unconvincing on all fronts in the opening tie against the Red Miners, it will be very natural for Cuadrat to make changes to his team. Although, for keeping a clean sheet, the backline of Nishu Kumar, Jose Antonio Pardo, Harmanjot Khabra and Mandar Rao Dessai is likely to remain unchanged.
Saul Crespo is likely to start at the base of the midfield but his partner from the last game, Souvik Chakraborty, had a match to forget and Cuadrat could hand a start to Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, who came in as a substitute in that fixture.
Nandhakumar Sekar, Borja Herrera, and Naorem Mahesh Singh are all likely to retain their places, but the same cannot be said about Siverio. The young Spanish striker missed plenty of opportunities in the last game, which could deny him a chance to start against his former employers. In his place, Cleiton Silva might be handed a start.
During the Durand Cup, we saw the pair of Singto and Nestor relying on a 5-4-1 formation, and the same can be carried forward to this game. Gurmeet Singh will be unavailable as he is playing at the Asian Games, which should mean Laxmikant Kattimani will be Hyderabad’s last line of defense. The Nizams made a real statement by signing Mexican central defender Oswaldo Alanis, who has played for renowned teams like Getafe and Real Oviedo.
Alanis is likely to be one of the three central defenders, but with Chinglensana Singh unavailable, Nim Dorjee Tamang and Alex Saji could get a chance to impress in the ISL. Nikhil Poojary could play at right-back, with Vignesh Dakshinamurthy expected to make his league debut for Hyderabad at left-back.
Skipper Joao Victor and Sahil Tavora are likely to play centrally, alongside Mohammed Yasir and Makan Chote on the flanks. Costa Rican striker Jonathan Moya, who recently scored in the 1-0 friendly win against East Bengal, could start as the lone striker.
East Bengal (4-2-3-1): Prabhsukhan Gill; Nishu Kumar, Jose Antonio Pardo, Harmanjot Khabra, Mandar Rao Dessai; Saul Crespo, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul; Nandhakumar Sekar, Borja Herrera, Naorem Mahesh Singh; Cleiton Silva.
Hyderabad (5-4-1): Laxmikant Kattimani; Nikhil Poojary, Oswaldo Alanis, Nim Dorjee Tamang, Alex Saji, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy; Mohammad Yasir, Joao Victor, Sahil Tavora, Makan Chote; Jonathan Moya.
Although Hyderabad has always performed well against East Bengal, it is to be noted that they have lost some of their key players, while East Bengal strengthened their team considerably over the summer. The Torchbearers are likely to get their first league win over the Nizams in this match.