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Bagan on brink of clinching top spot, face top-4 chasing Hyderabad (Match Preview 103)

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Vasco (Goa), Feb 21 (IANS) ATK Mohun Bagan are a win away from securing the top spot in the 2021 Indian Super League (ISL) table while Hyderabad are looking for a victory in their next match to stay ahead in the race for the playoffs. The two teams face each other on Monday at the Tilak Maidan Stadium.

Hyderabad FC have emerged as the surprise package this season. They have not suffered a defeat since the start of the year and are unbeaten in 10 games which has helped them challenge for a playoff spot for the first time. If they avoid a loss in the next game, Hyderabad will not only edge closer to safety inside the top four but also secure the second-best unbeaten run in ISL history in just their second season.

While Hyderabad have been in scintillating form, their opponents are also enjoying a purple patch. Bagan have won five matches on the trot and a late slip up from runaway leaders Mumbai City has ensured that the Mariners not only caught up with their rivals, but also took the driver’s seat in the race for a spot in the 2022 AFC Champions League group stage. They have scored 13 goals in their last five games while conceding five times. Bagan now hold a five-point lead over Mumbai with two games left to play for both teams. Their goal difference is 15 compared to Mumbai’s 10 which means that even a draw would in their next match would all but confirm a top-place finish. A win, however, would make it mathematically impossible for Mumbai to catch them.

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Hyderabad coach Manuel Marquez said that they are going to play against the “strongest team in the league”.

“They have a very compact team and have very good players for the style Antonio Habas wants to play in this moment. With Lenny (Rodrigues) and Marcelinho, the team is more decisive,” said Marquez.

Hyderabad not only face the strongest defence in the league but will also have a big task in hand to stop Bagan’s talisman and the league’s leading goalscorer in Roy Krishna. The Fijian has 18 goal contributions in total and has scored in six games running.

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The second half could determine the outcome of the game, with both sides proving to be more efficient after the break. The Mariners have netted 21 out of their 26 goals in the second half – which is the highest in the league. Hyderabad boast the second-best tally, scoring 20 of their 25 goals in the second half. Bagan coach Antonio Lopez Habas has been among the many impressed by Hyderabad’s form this season.

“Hyderabad have had a good season and we have to be confident against them. They have a good balance between their attack and defense. They have surprised everyone in the competition this season,” said Habas.

–IANS

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