The Islanders will be looking to bounce back after the heavy defeat to Al-Shabab in their opening fixture.

Mumbai City FC face Iraqi side Al-Quwa Al-Jawia in their second match of the AFC Champions League group stage. The Islanders were annihilated 3-0 by Saudi Arabian side Al-Shabab in their opening fixture. With this defeat, they rank last in their group at the moment. Next up, they face Iraqi side Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya. They picked up a win in their opener in the same group. A

They are one of the most successful Iraqi clubs having won the domestic league title seven times. They are also only one of the only clubs to have won all four major national trophies in the same season. At the continental level, they were the first club to win the AFC Cup thrice in a row from 2016-18. However, they’ve never made it past the group stages of the AFC Champions League. Either way, they’re one tough side to pick with and will hence be a major challenge for Des Buckingham’s men come Monday.

On that note, here are three key battles that you need to know about for this upcoming tie:

3. Hammadi Ahmad Vs Mourtada Fall

Mourtada Fall
Mourtada Fall makes a tackle on Bartholomew Ogbeche in ISL 2021-22 (Courtesy: ISL Media)

The Al-Quwa Al-Jawia number 10 will be a constant threat for Mumbai City and stopping him would give them an upper hand in the game. Ahmad can take on the tired legs in the end minutes and possess the ability to change the game on his own. He can play defence penetrating passes and can drag the opposition players wide making some spaces to exploit.

The towering captain of Mumbai City FC will have a tedious task against the creative forward. Mourtada Fall holds his defence line tight and is vocal on the field. With six clean-sheets in the ISL 2021-22 and 4.6 average clearances every game, he was solid at the back despite the team’s poor run. Similar can be expected from him against the Iraqi Al-Quwa Al-Jawia.

2. Ahmad Ibrahim Vs Diego Mauricio

Diego Mauricio was scoring for fun in the Indian Super League 2020-21 in Odisha FC’s worst season. Considering that, Mumbai City bought him in the winter transfer window. The Brazilian is known for his long-range shooting and composure in front of the goal. Mauricio is quite clinical with his finishing and can give Mumbai City a goal in those limited chances only.

Al-Quwa Al-Jawia simply cannot allow the attacker any space in the final third. Their most trusted defender Ahmad Ibrahim will have the responsibility to keep him quiet throughout in his strides. The centre-back is least prone to mistakes and possesses tremendous ability to break-down attacks. His work-rate in the defence is top-class and never fears in leaving the line and going one-on-one with attackers. 

Since Mumbai City FC is most likely to sit back and absorb the pressure against Al-Quwa Al-Jawia, Ibrahim would make sure his team don’t concede on counter attacks.

1. Ibrahim Bayesh Vs Ahmed Jahouh

Ibrahim Bayesh is the creative outlet for Al-Jawia in the middle of the park. The attacker possesses excellent knowledge of when to slow-down the tempo and make the opposition feel dominant. The position shifting and movements from the player makes him difficult to keep under control. The Iraqi side will rely on his deliveries and defence penetrating passes. Thus, winding off his passes and preventing him from getting into those pockets of spaces will give the Indian club an edge.

Probably the best defensive midfielder in India, Ahmed Jahou, will have to be at his strategic and physical best to keep the playmaker quiet. There is no better midfield disrupter in India than a fit and firing Jahou if the Moroccan is at his best. Thus it will be the most high-profile battle to watch out for in the game.

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