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Hero ISL Matchday: Kerala Blasters FC Vs Hyderabad FC

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Kerala Blasters FC will only know about their top-four prospects after the result of the Kolkata Derby on Saturday, but will look to put an end to a two-game losing streak nonetheless when they take on Hyderabad FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday in the Hero Indian Super League’s (ISL’s) final fixture before the playoffs. Hyderabad FC have confirmed second place, while the Blasters are fifth on the table.

If ATK Mohun Bagan drop points on Saturday, the Blasters could finish fourth and secure a home game in the playoffs if they avoid defeat. Kerala Blasters are coming into this game after losses against Bengaluru FC and ATKMB and will be banking on their passionate home support to get them over the line if a top-four opportunity opens up.

In nine home games so far this season, the Blasters have won seven and lost two. If they win against Hyderabad FC, they will finish the league stage with the best home record this season. After losing against Mumbai City FC at Kochi in October, they have won six consecutive games at home. 

“Playing in Kochi is something special. From the first moment, warming up, getting out of the tunnel for the game – it means a lot to all of us. We’ll get that kind of motivation tomorrow as well,” said Vukomanovic. “We want to be a strong unit and show there’s a reason we’re unbeaten for a long time at home. We face a strong team, our opponents from last season’s finals. They are, with reason, in the playoffs for a second year in a row, and we’ll have to be at our best if we want to get the points and enter the playoffs with a good mindset,” he added.

Hyderabad FC have lost two out of their last three games. In their last match, the defending champions lost in their own backyard against Jamshedpur FC with a heavily rotated squad. However, the Blasters’ stellar home record could be matched by Hyderabad FC’s superb away record this season. In nine away games so far, the defending champions have only lost twice.

Head coach Manolo Marquez said ahead of the game that he will field a more familiar XI, and that he expects the Blasters to play their strongest line-up. (Club statistics)

“If you remember last season in their last game, they were fifth. And when they were losing 4-2 against FC Goa, the coach put in players [who were on] three yellow cards [to try and win]. Then the score was 4-4. So if they need to win, they will play [strongly] at home, but even if, maximum, they can finish fifth, they want to win. Ivan is a winner in these kinds of situations and I’m sure he will want to win in front of the Kerala fans. I think that they will play with their main team,” Marquez said.

The two sides have met eight times in the Hero ISL, and have both won four times each, with the last five meetings being extremely close affairs that have totalled nine goals. (Hero ISL standings)