The big day in the Indian Super League has arrived as Hyderabad FC take on Kerala Blasters FC to determine this season’s winner in front of a full-capacity crowd at the Fatorda Stadium. After overcoming several hurdles – slips in form, COVID cases in the camps, quarantines, and match postponements, the two sides will be looking to etch their names in the history books, in their bid to lift their first-ever ISL title.
Both Hyderabad FC and Kerala Blasters have been extremely consistent in the current campaign and were also big contenders for the ISL shield. Their quest for the shield may have ended in dismay but their aspirations to lift the cup are still well and truly alive. Read our match preview to know more about the X-factors, team news, probable starting lineups, Head to Head records, and match details.
TEAM NEWS AND INJURIES
Kerala Blasters FC – According to some reports, Blasters’ attacking midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad has reportedly suffered a minor muscle tear during the 2nd leg of the semifinal against Jamshedpur FC and is set to miss the final. The 24-year-old reportedly missed the Blasters’ group training session on Friday and Saturday, although was seen being able to do a light jog. Nishu Kumar or Rahul KP ought to make the lineup for Ivan Vukomanovic’s side should Sahal not be fit for the showpiece event. Adrian Luna also faces a late fitness test ahead of the final but is expected to be available.
Hyderabad FC – Coach Manolo Marquez confirmed that Joel Chianese and Ashish Rai were fit to feature in the final, having only just recovered from COVID-19. However, he kept his cards close to his chest regarding the duo making the starting XI. Chianese’s return as an attacking midfielder would allow Bart Ogbeche to return to his favored number 9 role, with Javi Siverio dropping to the bench. Nim Dorjee has put in a decent shift in the absence of Rai and might retain his place.
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
Total Matches played: 6
Hyderabad FC wins: 3
Kerala Blasters FC wins: 3
Kerala Blasters FC and Hyderabad FC have won 3 matches apiece against each other. There have been no draws in the 6 encounters between these two clubs. This season, both teams have won one game each. The Blasters got the better of Hyderabad in their first meeting in January. Both teams went into the match on an eight-match unbeaten run. Hyderabad FC came out on top in the second meeting between the two on the league stage.
FORM GUIDE IN LAST 5 MATCHES
Hyderabad FC: Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss.
Kerala Blasters FC: Win, Win, Draw, Win, Draw.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
1) Sahal Abdul Samad
After a slow start to the season, the Indian gathered momentum going along, as he scored six goals and assisted once so far, becoming an influential player for the Blasters. Sahal’s sharp presence of mind helped him score a brilliant goal in the first leg, which gave his team the advantage ahead of the deciding tie. With a stiff challenge ahead, the playmaker is likely to play a key role once again.
2) Adrian Luna
The main architect in the Kerala Blasters FC unit, Adrian Luna has scored five times and assisted on seven other occasions in the Hero ISL 2021-22 so far. Despite taking two shots on target, he was not as effective as his reputation in the first leg. Given the big match player he is, there is no doubt that Luna will hold the cards for the Blasters in the second leg and possibly steer them to the final.
3) Bartholomew Ogbeche
Ogbeche has scored 18 goals from 19 games. He has had 28 shots on target with a shot accuracy of 47.45%. His goal in the first-leg inspired HFC to come back from a goal down. He needs one more goal to set a new record for most goals scored in a single Hero ISL season. The Nigerian forward has taken the 3rd most shots on goal this season (61).
4) Joao Victor
The midfielder has scored five goals and assisted one in 19 matches. He has completed 623 passes with a passing accuracy of 82.19%. The Brazilian has made 10 key passes in the season. Joao Victor’s experience might be better suited to containing the tricky Luna, although that’s easier said than done.
5) Jorge Diaz
Diaz scored a brace in the last game and took his tally for the season to eight goals. He has now scored five goals in his last six matches. Against a defensively solid Jamshedpur FC, he will be crucial to the Blasters’ chances. Diaz will have some challenges upfront with Nizam’s solid defense.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP
Hyderabad FC are unbeaten in their last nine matches played at Fatorda Stadium. Their last defeat at the venue came against FC Goa in the 2019-20 season. The Nizams might enter the contest as slight favorites against Kerala Blasters FC, who performed beyond their expectations to reach the final. It will be a tightly contested game and will certainly not disappoint the fans who will be in the stands after a long wait of two years. IFTWC predicts a 2-1 win for Hyderabad FC.
MATCH DETAILS AND TELECAST NEWS
Match: Hyderabad FC vs Kerala Blasters FC (2021-22 ISL Final)
Date: March 20, 2022
Venue: PJN Stadium, Margao, Goa.
Timings: 7:30 PM IST.
Live Telecast: Star Sports Network, Live Streaming: Disney Hotstar.
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