The Islanders face a Highlanders outfit who have only pride to play for.
Mumbai City FC will be looking to keep their bleak chances of qualification for the playoffs of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 alive when they welcome struggling NorthEast United FC to the Mumbai Football Arena on Thursday. The Islanders currently occupy seventh spot in the points table having notched up 20 points from 15 games.
The Islanders must win their match against NorthEast to stay in the running for the playoffs, which is why their head coach Alexandre Guimaraes expects a fighting performance from his players. “First of all, it’s good to be alive (in the competition). Still knowing that we have a chance, we have to end up playing even better to try to win tomorrow against a team who have played well but don’t have a chance,” he told reporters at the pre-match press conference.
Guimaraes continued: “I also hope that tomorrow, finally, we can win a game at home, which for us decides the importance of continuing the fight, and especially for our fans because this (Mumbai’s poor home form) is not normal.”
The NorthEast fixture will be Mumbai’s last match at home in the league phase and they will be hoping to end on a high after a poor record at home this season. When quizzed on the added pressure of it being a must-win game, Guimaraes replied: “I think the pressure will be higher if we see that the team is not playing well or that the players are not doing what the coach has asked them to do. In my case, I will be much more worried then. From last season to this season, I think we are in a position to finalise a spot and again be in the top four. But it is also important that after these two seasons, Mumbai have built a position for itself.”
He added: “Of course it would be fantastic if we can again qualify. We are still alive and we will fight till the end. For me also, when I came here, it was to help this club and to create a competitive football team. And I think that we have done that. No matter if we qualify or not but of course, we want to win tomorrow to continue further and also to give a present to our fans. For them to feel happy after the game and to know that this team does not just play for pride and confidence, but also to try and find a (playoff) spot.
The Costa Rican also shared that he wasn’t entirely certain if Mumbai’s defensive rock Lucian Goian would be fit enough to start against the Highlanders. “He has an injury which is very sensitive. If you’re not at 100%, you shouldn’t play. At the top-level they have to know that. We have talked with him and he is ready. He has been patient to give time and get well to play. He helped us win the last game. After that in the practice here, he didn’t feel any pain so let’s hope he can play tomorrow,” Guimaraes said.