Kerala Blasters FC vs Hyderabad FC (Photo: ISL)
Kochi: Kerala Blasters FC will take on Hyderabad FC with both teams seeking to forget the previous year and turn a new chapter in their season with the first match of the new year.
As only a miracle can take them to the top four spot, the two bottom placed outfits will be fighting for pride as much as points at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Sunday.
Hyderabad are currently at the bottom of the points table with just five points from 10 outings while Kerala are just one spot above them having secured eight from 10 matches. Needless to say, both teams will be eager to turn over a new page in the new year, starting with three points from Sunday's contest.
Now winless in nine matches, Kerala will be desperate to break the trend. The prospect of facing off against bottom-placed team Hyderabad at home does provide them with the perfect opportunity to hopefully notch up a win. The Men in Yellow’s last victory was in the opening match of the competition back in October.
Eelco Schattorie's men have so far dropped nine points from winning positions - the most by any team this season. Both their attack and defence have contributed to the unflattering stat, with the attackers only managing 10 goals so far and the defence letting in 14 goals, mostly in crucial junctures of games.
Kerala's offence, for most parts, has been led by Bartholomew Ogbeche and Raphael Messi Bouli, with the duo contributing to eight of the team's 10 goals this season. However, apart from the two, the rest of the side, including the midfield, have failed to carry any substantial goal threat. It is an aspect of the game which Schattorie would have addressed during the short break.
Shortcomings in the defence too have been left exposed, with opponents particularly targeting their frailty while defending set pieces. Half of the 14 goals Blasters have conceded so far have come about from dead ball situations and Vlatko Drobarov and Co. will surely want to plug that hole going into Sunday's fixture.
One possible boost for Schattorie heading into Sunday’s game will be the potential return of Gianni Zuiverloon. The Dutch centre back was sidelined for almost eight weeks with an injury and his return will be a big positive for the side.
Like Kerala, Hyderabad have been able to register just a single win this campaign but interestingly, their only triumph this season came against the Men in Yellow in the reverse fixture last year. In the match, Phil Brown's men went a goal down early but fought back resolutely to earn a 2-1 victory and much of the same application and attitude will be expected of them in the coming game. Hyderabad are winless in 7, the second-longest run.
Taking a holistic view, Hyderabad's defence has let them down with the team letting in a whopping 21 goals so far, the worst defensive record so far this season. Off late, the team has looked good in possession. But off the ball they have struggled to maintain their shape which, in turn, led to continuous defensive lapses and cost them points. Hyderabad fans will certainly hope that the likes of Matthew Kilgallon, Rafael Lopez Gomez and the others can rally in the coming matches and stop the downward spiral.
In attack, the team has scored as many goals as Kerala but to be fair, have only gradually improved recently. Of their 10 goals, five have come in the last three outings with Bobo scoring four of them. Brown will hope the Brazilian’s aerial prowess comes into play and can expose Kerala’s weakness at defending set-pieces yet again come Sunday.
(With inputs from ISL)