Image Credits: @HEROISL
For the most part of the Hero Indian Super League season, Hyderabad always maintained their place in the top four. But now, with three games to go, they find themselves fifth, level on points with fourth-placed FC Goa and two points below NorthEast United.
Hyderabad can't afford more slip-ups. They have played out six draws in their last seven matches. And when the Nizams face Kerala Blasters at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on Tuesday, they will know that any more dropped points will hugely dent their playoff ambitions.
On paper, they face one of the most vulnerable sides in the league, who are playing for pride. Kerala have shipped 29 goals, which is the second-worst tally. Their defense has been so fragile that Kibu Vicuna's side has now dropped 18 points after scoring the first goal. But for Hyderbad coach Manuel Marquez, that doesn't mean they are to be taken lightly.
"All the other teams, from Kerala who are second from the bottom, till the top positions, can climb positions in the table," he said.
"We will play with Kerala with our style. We will not change that because (we need to win). We are nine games unbeaten but six of them are draws. We have to continue in the same vein and try to win the game because our season has been fantastic. We want to be in the top four."
Plenty of drama can be expected from these two sides right until the final whistle. Fourteen of Kerala's 22 goals have come in the second half while Hyderadad have scored 16 goals after the break - the second-most by a side this season.
The defenses of both sides have also not handled pressure well during this period. Kerala have conceded 18 goals in the second half, most by a team this season. Meanwhile, Hyderabad have conceded 11 of their 17 goals in the second period. However, one big area Kerala coach Kibu Vicuna wants his side to improve on is their ability to convert chances.
"We have a lack of balance between attack and defense," Vicuna stated. "Most of our games, we have been creating more chances than the opponents but we are not getting the points. We have to improve this aspect. We are working and analysing our mistakes. We are trying to have a more positive percentage in the relation between creating chances and scoring goals."