Hyderabad FC are in the driver’s seat in the race for the Indian Super League (ISL) playoffs while East Bengal need to win all the rest of their matches while needing a few results to go their way to make it to the playoffs. Beating Hyderabad, however, would go a long way in Robbie Fowler’s team securing a playoff spot and they would be trying for just that at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on Friday.
SC East Bengal have had a stop-start debut campaign. They’ve spent most of the season near the bottom of the table. A win against Hyderabad will bring them to within four points of their opponents with three games left for the Kolkata club.
East Bengal have 16 points from 16 games. They would still need favours from other teams to dent the chances of NorthEast United FC, Hyderabad and FC Goa — who are all tied on 23 points with 16 games played — but it is not out of the question. They face ATK Mohun Bagan, NorthEast and wooden-spooners Odisha FC in their last three games.
East Bengal have scored the lowest number of goals from open play (7) and talisman Bright Enobakhare has faded after a bright start. There is every chance the match will be decided in the second half – Hyderabad have scored 75 percent of their goals in the second half while SCEB have conceded 14 out of 21 goals in the same period.
East Bengal had their finest game against Jamshedpur FC with the entire squad putting on a good display. Grant maintained that he prefers to start with a similar eleven but wasn’t sure if that was the best 11. “We can’t play the same 11. We played really well. We would like to play the same team but whether we have any knocks or inquiries, we will find out later,” Grant said.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad coach Manuel Marquez, who has just extended his contract with the team, knows that a win will be a giant step towards making the playoffs. His team is on an eight-match unbeaten run and will look to continue their good form.