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THE BATTLE FOR PLAY-OFFS: HIGHLANDERS VERSUS NIZAMS



With a mission to catapult their season and book their place in the top four, the Highlanders will lock horns with the Nizams in an enthralling encounter at the Tilak Maidan from 1930 hours. The two struggling teams from last season have turned the corner and are now competing for a berth in the play-offs. Vengeance will be on the minds and the feet of the Men in Red, as in the earlier leg they conceded four goals. This will be most difficult fixture for the Highlanders among the remaining games in the league stage, as the team will play the four bottom placed team in their last four fixtures. There is no room for error as we head towards the business end of the season.



NORTH-EAST UNITED FC

Khalid Jamil has boosted the qualifying chances of the team, as he led the team with three victories and a draw. The attack has been the strength of the squad – netting 21 goals. The teams’ philosophy of creating and capitalizing when in possession and maintaining the shape has proved to be a trusted tactic going forward. But the Highlanders have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 9 game. Lack of concentration in crucial moments and school-boy errors like failing to “play with the whistle” has haunted our net.



The return of Fox from injury and his formidable partnership with Lambot at the heart of our defence will be a key for the vital game. The defenders for tomorrow’s game needs to on their toes, especially during the set-pieces. There can be no complaint whatsoever on Apuia even from his idol Sergio Busquets, who is such a pleasure to watch. The front-line has to be more clinical; as if the chances were converted the tale would have been different during the last match. Gallego’s uncountable chances need to be capitalized. It will also be interesting to see, if Camara who has been quite of late, is replaced in the starting eleven tomorrow.


“We want to play this match like how we played the last few matches. We have to play positively and get a positive result. We are not taking any of the teams lightly. We need to get the three points and we will try to be in our best form. All the players and the staff, we are working together to improve our performances. Hyderabad is a good team. It is a crucial match,” interim head coach Khalid Jamil said ahead of the game while applauding the team’s effort.


HYDERABAD FC

The Nizams has been of a fine run of form as they are undefeated in 2021. Marquez’s men have also kept three clean sheets and have been scoring goals at the opposite end of the field.  The captain Aridane Santana is complemented by the likes of Fran Sandaza, Joel Chianese and Halicharan Narzary; and it will be quite some responsibility to stop these men. Manuel Marquez has been admired by fans and pundits for marshalling his lads to perform above the level expected of them.



“The work of Khalid [Jamil] is very good because it is not easy to beat Mumbai City, Jamshedpur and ATK Mohun Bagan. But I think the most important thing that Khalid gives to his players is confidence. They have three very dangerous players in attack: [Luis] Machado, [Federico] Gallego and Deshorn Brown. They have a lot of confidence. But we will have chances to win the game as well if we play in our own style,” Hyderabad head coach Manuel Marquez said in the pre-match conference.


As the race to the top 4 intensifies, the two teams with an almost identical stats and tally will lock horns with a mission no different from one another. The Highlanders will be eyeing to avenge the defeat in the first leg under a new gaffer and a stronger squad.


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