As the Indian Super League (ISL) returns for its sixth season on October 20, it is time to take a closer look at the 10 teams who will fight it out for one of the most prestigious honours in Indian football.
Here’s our team preview of Hyderabad FC, one of the two new entrants in this edition.
Hyderabad FC, owned by IT entrepreneur Vijay Madduri and former Chief Executive Officer of Kerala Blasters Varun Tripuraneni, is more or less FC Pune City in a new bottle. The Pune-based franchise owned by the Rajesh Wadhawan Group, was forced to shift its base to Hyderabad after being plagued by financial issues in recent years. Subsequently, their right to participation in the ISL was transferred to Hyderabad FC, who will play their home matches at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad.
At least on paper, Hyderabad, a city which has had a glorious footballing past, is a new entity, but the nucleus of the team that was there at Pune City FC last year has been retained. They have managed to bring together a compact team with balance in all the departments, featuring a unique mix of local and foreign talents.
Former Hull City manager Phil Brown, who had a two-year contract with Pune City, has been entrusted with the responsibility of guiding the debutants through their maiden season.
Although Brown is known to be a fine exponent of free-flowing football and attacking style of play, defensive strength is the hallmark of this Hyderabad side.
Led by English centre-back Matthew Kilgallon and Spaniard Rafael Lopez Gomez - commonly known as Rafa - their backline also features Indian stars Adil Ahmed Khan and Gurtej Singh. The remaining players who will be holding their defence include promising local talents Sahil Panwar and Ashish Rai.
Hyderabad have a quality shot-stopper in their captain Kamaljit Singh. Former FC Goa custodian goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani will be his assistant.
Fluid midfield combination
Hyderabad have done well to retain Austrian midfield general Marko Stankovic who was a vital cog in Pune City’s wheel. Their impressive line-up of midfield also boasts of Spaniard Nestor Jesus Benitez, one of the outstanding performers in Chennai City FC’s I-League-winning squad last year.
Former Bengaluru FC attacking midfielder Alwyn George, Indian international Laldanmawia Ralte, and young prospects Deependra Negi, Rohit Kumar and Abhishek Halder will give the coach too many options to choose from.
Fine attacking unit
Their attack, spearheaded by Brazilian Marcelinho Leite Pereira, who needs no introduction to ISL fans, is a perfect mix of experienced players and fresh talent. Marcelinho will team up with his countryman Deyvison Rogerio Da Silva, known as Bobo, and Jamaican international Giles Barnes to form a deadly partnership up front. Bobo, who spent the majority of his professional career with Brazilian side Corinthians and Turkish club Besiktas, too is an experienced campaigner and an excellent goal-getter.
Barnes, who burst through the Derby County ranks, has the ability to don the dual role of an explosive forward and an attacking midfielder with elan. The 32-year-old Marcelinho possesses the quality to break any defensive barrier with his swift, counter attacking moves through the flanks.
Brown has a vast experience in managing, having coached several English clubs. The 60-year-old, who won promotion to the Premier League with Hull in 2008, also had coaching stints with Southend United and Swindon Town. As a player, Brown was a right-back who made over 600 league appearances in an 18-year career with different clubs including Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool. Brown's first full-time senior management position was at Derby County, where he succeeded George Burley in June, 2005.
Hyderabad FC have managed to bring together a compact team with balance in all the departments
The presence of a number of match-winners
A potent attacking line-up led by foreign imports
Delay in completing the signing of former Chennai City midfielder Nestor Gordillo due to transfer ban will hurt them badly
Over-dependence on foreign recruits
Absence of experienced local players