ISL 2023-24: Bengaluru FC push for playoffs against Hyderabad FC in Sunil Chhetri’s 150th outing

Bengaluru, Feb 23 (IANS) Sunil Chhetri will step out for the 150th time when Bengaluru FC take on the winless Hyderabad FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Saturday.

It will be a landmark game for home team captain Chhetri, with the prolific forward playing his 150th ISL game in the process. Chhetri will want his special day to bring happy news for Bengaluru’s faithful after they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in their previous contest against Mumbai City FC.

Though placed 10th in the table, Bengaluru FC are aware that the fight for the sixth spot in the standings is still wide open, with multiple teams hoping to stake a claim for qualification to the Playoffs. They can ill-afford any slip-ups now, especially considering that this is a home encounter above anything else.

In contrast, few things have gone right for Hyderabad FC in this campaign.

However, head coach Thangboi Singto has repeatedly fielded an inexperienced, but young squad in the second half of the season. He will want his players to mature and deliver some promising outcomes that could ignite a glimmer of hope for the future as the team approaches the final stages of its league run.

Bengaluru FC kept a clean sheet in their previous home game, which was a 1-0 win over Chennaiyin FC. The coming clash gives them a chance to not concede twice consecutively in their bastion at the Kanteerava for the first time since October 2022.

Regardless of the results, Bengaluru FC has been enterprising in their approach.

The team averages 7.6 dribbles per game in ISL 2023-24, and their host of creative and industrious midfielders as well as forwards will be hoping to find multiple breakthroughs past the Hyderabad FC backline to not only secure three points but also boost their goal difference tally simultaneously.

For Hyderabad FC, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and they will want the next game to be a ray of sunshine that they have been seeking throughout this season. Hyderabad FC are unbeaten in their previous seven matches against Bengaluru FC, having won four times and drawn thrice. In fact, they have been better in each of their last six fixtures against the Blues, and only in front of East Bengal FC (7) and Odisha FC (8) have they recorded longer scoring streaks in the ISL.

That should inspire them to snap their stretch of failing to score even a single goal in their last five matches in the ISL. Petteri Pennanen was the last player who netted for Hyderabad FC in the league, during their match against NorthEast United FC on December 10, 2023. Pennanen is no longer associated with the club but Singto will have to find newer heroes if he wishes to end this campaign on a high.

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