NorthEast United vs Hyderabad: Preview and Prediction￼
NorthEast United have had a tumultuous run ever since its inception. Despite putting the effort to procure good players and coaches they have been unable to secure a footing in the tournament.
In the history of their existence, they have only made it to the playoffs twice. Their most recent tryst with the playoffs was when Khalid Jamil was running the show in the 2020-2021 season.
Khalid became the first permanent Indian Head Coach of an Indian Super League team but their stellar performance of the previous season fizzled out and they ended up occupying the tenth position in the league table in the 2021-2022 season. Ahead of the new season, Israeli footballer and coach Marco Balbul has been roped in as the Head Coach for the team.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad‘s story is like any good underdog story. After finishing last in their first season in the ISL they showed a meteoric rise. They faced Kerala Blasters in the finals and after a gruelling penalty shootout emerged as the Champions of the 2021/22 ISL season.
Their success is owed to Manolo Marquez, who joined them in 2020 and has since transformed them for the better. Their striker Bartholomew Ogbeche also had the most goals to his name in the previous instalment of the ISL.
NorthEast United had a short pre-season compared to others. They participated in the Durand Cup but the lack of matches before that put them at a disadvantage compared to the other teams who had more practice playing with each other.
They failed to clear the group stages and had to watch on as other ISL teams such as Bengaluru, Mumbai, and others rose to the knockout rounds. The Highlanders also suffered a 1-0 loss away to Bengaluru in their opening fixture of the current Indian Super League campaign courtesy of a late Alan Costa winner in the 87th minute.
Hyderabad too participated in the 131st Durand Cup, which served as a pre-season to the ISL. The Nizams competed under the leadership of Manolo Marquez and emerged at the top of their group stage and went on to the elimination rounds only to be bested by Bengaluru in the semi-finals.
The defending champions were also involved in an enthralling 3-3 draw against Mumbai City in both the sides’ first game of the ongoing league season wherein Joao Victor scored a brace and Halicharan Nazary put another for the Nizams.
NorthEast United and Hyderabad have faced each other in 6 matches in the Indian Super League. Out of these 6 games, NorthEast United have won 1 whereas Hyderabad has come out victorious on 4 occasions with 1 match ending with a draw.
Last season, Hyderabad scored 10 goals against the Highlanders while the team from the NorthEast part of the country could only muster one goal. In fact, the Nizams won the previous game at a scoreline of 5-0 when these two sides met in January earlier this year.
NorthEast United will go into the new season with a fairly young squad with just six players above the age of 30. Four of those are foreign players which means the onus will be on them to lead the side which is full of potential but there’s a challenge with the inexperience as well.
The squad has a good balance in terms of numbers across the defensive and attacking areas with Balbul having a good variety of Indian and foreign players to choose from in attack. In defence, the Highlanders will largely rely on Indian talent with just one foreign defender in their ranks in the shape of Michael Jakobsen.
This season Hyderabad’s defense sees a few additions that are sure to strengthen them and provide options during the lengthy season. Reagan Singh joins the Nizams after transferring over from Chennaiyin while Manoj Mohammed is also welcomed into the team. Erstwhile Gokulam Kerala player, Alex Saji has also joined their ranks. The defending champions will also have rookie talent Lalchungnunga in their team.
Hyderabad’s defense has been bolstered by the addition of two foreign players – Odei Onaindia and Borja Herrera. It is also Onaindia’s return to Hyderabad after 2 years. Borja Herrera is a newcomer to the Indian football scene. Both players are proven additions to Hyderabad’s defense and can deliver if integrated properly into their play style.
Predicted Starting XIs
NorthEast United (4-1-2-3): Arindam Bhattacharya; Provat Lakra, Aaron Evans, Gaurav Bora, Gurjinder Kumar; Jon Gaztanaga; Romain Philippoteaux, Emil Benny; Rochharzela, Matt Derbyshire, Jithin Madathil Subran
Hyderabad (4-2-3-1): Laxmikant Kattimani; Borja Herrera, Odei Onaindia, Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra; Hitesh Sharma, Joao Victor; Nikhil Poojary, Mohammad Yasir, Halicharan Narzary; Bartholomew Ogbeche
Hyderabad are firm favourites to win this game given their depth in the squad and NorthEast’s unpredictable form. Hyderabad boasts a full of stars and are menacing in attack and hence we predict them to win the Nizams to win the game 3-0.