ISL Final: Key battles to watch out for

In a season where every team had their fair share of goals and galore, two of the most deserving teams made their way into the final showdown. The Indian Super League’s eighth edition is set to witness an all-yellow affair as Hyderabad FC play their maiden final against three-time finalists, Kerala Blasters FC.

After a nadir finish for Blasters in the previous edition, the addition of Ivan Vukomanovic as Head Coach has turned the tide. During his first sojourn in India, Vukomanovic has created immense impact and led the side to the grand finale. In a recent interview, he expressed his delight and wanted to win the trophy for the fans.

“We need you to fight with us (fans). We have been missing you throughout the season, but now we want to see you. We want to see that yellow sea. We are waiting for you guys. Come on (in the Stadiums) on Sunday,” said Vukomanovic in an exclusive conversation with ISL Media Team after the match. The fans have answered the coach’s call. As per the guidelines by the government, the final will see 100% attendance. The Manjappada (Kerala Blasters fan club) is already making noise on social media and are ready to flock the stands come Sunday.

Similarly for Hyderabad, it has been a season of resurgence. For the first time in its brief history, the club will play in an ISL final. Throughout the season, they have remained robust against heavyweights and emerged gloriously.

Sunday’s thriller will be a battle of Hyderabad’s attacking prowess versus Kerala’s defensive balance. Kerala has had the most clean sheets (8) throughout the season, whereas Hyderabad FC has scored most goals (46).

Here are three key battles that will determine who has the final laugh in Sunday’s blockbuster:

Marko Leskovic vs Barth Ogbeche

The Nigerian superstar, Bartholomew Ogbeche is on the brink of creating history after spending three years in India. He is adjudged as Golden Boot winner with 18 goals this season. Barth was instrumental in scripting Hyderabad’s story this season. When he takes on to the pitch against his former employers, will he script a fairytale for himself? Only time will tell. For Kerala Blasters, their Croatian Central Back Marko Leskovic will have a key role. Marko has featured in most matches for this season and has proven to be the chief commander. If he is able to keep Ogbeche at bay, things could turn favourable for Blasters.

Adrian Luna vs Chinglensana Singh

Adrian, the Uruguayan mastermind, was a revelation this season. The former LaLiga player is one of the most lethal midfielders in the league with a significant impact on matches. Famous for his knuckle-ball goals, Adrian has scored six times and provided seven assists in his first stint at India. For Hyderabad to have the last laugh, Adrian needs to be kept under check. That’s where India’s national team defender Chinglensana comes in alongside his peers. Playing for Hyderabad FC since last season, Chinglensana had a significant impact on the Nizams. His performance last season earned him a call-up to the national team as well. This season, Chinglensana played most matches and fared well. However, it remains to be seen how the 25-year-old shoulders responsibilities when his team performs the last dance.

Prabhsukhan Gill vs Javier Siverio

Having risen through the ranks in a short span, Prabhsukhan Gill is one of the most talented sons of Indian football. He represented India at the U-17 FIFA World Cup, became one of the best performers in I-League 2018-19 season, and is currently the Golden Glove contender for this year’s ISL. It is to be seen if the 21-year-old has the nerves to contain his opponents at the grandest stage. On the other hand, Hyderabad’s Siverio will hunt for glory. Siverio came on as a sub during the initial days for Hyderabad FC. However, his sharpness in finding the net has earned him a spot in the Playing XI during the later stages. The 24-year-old Spanish striker played all games this season and found the net 7 times for Hyderabad. Siverio will be a key man up front when Hyderabad look to further their scoring tally in their penultimate clash.

Kerala Blasters are on equal terms with Hyderabad FC this season, where they won their first match 1-0 and lost the second by 2-1. However, since Hyderabad FC finished higher than Kerala Blasters FC in the league table, they are considered Team-A for the finals. Hyderabad FC has the option of choosing the jersey colour in the final, which is yellow.

The match will kick-off at 19:30 IST at Fatorda Stadium on 20th March, Sunday. The final will be telecasted live on Star Sports Football, Hotstar, and Jio TV for Indian viewers.


For Trial related updates: Latest trials updates in Mumbai Football

Also Read: Churchill Brothers stun high-flying Mohammedan Sporting to notch first win

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