The Fatorda Stadium in Goa will be painted in yellow on Sunday. But deciding which shade of yellow will come out on top will be Kerala Blasters and Hyderabad FC who will contest in a high-voltage Indian Super League (ISL) final.
It’s an encounter that will see two well-balanced compact outfits battling for their first-ever ISL title. While Hyderabad are preparing for their first final in their third year of existence, Blasters had gone closest without winning the silverware twice in 2014 and 2016.
Manolo Marquez’s Hyderabad finished runners-up in the league stages and beat ATK Mohun Bagan 3-2 on aggregate while Blasters have had a renaissance of sorts under Ivan Vukomanovic to finish fourth in the league, before getting the better of shield winners Jamshedpur FC 2-1 over two legs.
“Having seen all the disappointment from previous seasons, we have come back with strength and force to be here this year. It’s a huge achievement for the club to be here after a long period,” said Vukomanovic on the eve of the title decider.
The stage is set for a new #HeroISL Champion ??How excited are you for the Final Battle between @HydFCOfficial an… https://t.co/X3N4iVvkSI
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) 1647486000000
The Kerala outfit are sweating over the fitness of couple of their key players. Sahal Abdul Samad missed the semifinal second-leg and doubts persist over his availability for the title decider. Adding to Blasters’ worries is the knock picked up by their talismanic forward and captain Adrian Luna.
“Luna had some medical treatment in the morning. So, we still don’t know who will be the captain on Sunday. We will have to evaluate how he is in the training. Hopefully everything will be alright,” the Serbian tactician said.
? One last hurdle, together!The @IndSuperLeague final, the only thing on our minds… ?#HFCKBFC #ForTheCup ?… https://t.co/oMSh9OPIll
— Hyderabad FC (@HydFCOfficial) 1647671829000
Looking to stop Blasters will be a familiar foe in Bartholomew Ogbeche, who is the top scorer in the league with 18 goals. Add to that, the quality of the likes of Javi Siverio, Joel Chianese and Juanan, and Vukomanovic’s side will have their work cut out at the Fatorda.
“Our strength is the group we have, players and staff. We all work towards the same direction. We know we have a hard opponent but I am sure they think the same about us as well,” said Marquez, who is in his second season with Hyderabad.
Sunday’s final will also be the first ISL match to be open to the public after more than two years. With Blasters supporters expected to flock to the stadium, Vukomanovic and his players are hoping to have the home advantage despite being officially designated as the away side.
The coaches with the best seat in the house! [email protected] #YennumYellow #KBFC #കേരളബ്ലാസ്റ്റേഴ്സ് https://t.co/XFyMYkLwrv
— K e r a l a B l a s t e r s F C (@KeralaBlasters) 1647597198000
“We play football for the fans. I think in the last couple of months, playing without fans was weird. Now it is an extra motivation for all the players. That’s what they are living for. As a boy, you dream of playing in front of your local fans,” said Vukomanovic.
“It’s fantastic. Football is for the fans. It is always good for players and everyone involved to have fans,” said Marquez.
The summit clash has all the makings of an engrossing contest and it is now upto the teams to live up to the pre-match hype.