The Islanders need to keep winning to keep their playoffs hopes alive.
Mumbai City FC are not losing hope despite having a relatively less chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of Hero Indian Super League. The team that topped the league stage last season is placed seventh at the moment.
Mumbai City can reach a maximum of 29 points, provided they win their remaining three matches. Mathematically, that should be enough for them to qualify, if others above them like FC Goa, Kerala Blasters, Jamshedpur FC and Chennaiyin FC all drop points at some stage. It’s a possibility and Mumbai City are keen to play their role well, starting with a clash against NorthEast United FC at Mumbai Football Arena, Mumbai, on Thursday.
“It’s good to be alive. We come here knowing that we have a chance and that we have to play better to try and win tomorrow against a team who have played well but didn’t have the luck to get better results. I also hope that tomorrow, finally, we can win a game at home which for us, besides the importance to continue the fight, should be a good present for our fans,” Mumbai coach Alexandre Guimaraes said during the pre-match media interaction.
Mumbai City have lost four successive matches at home and after successive losses against Jamshedpur FC and FC Pune City, it seemed as if Mumbai had bid their chances goodbye. Their fortunes changed after an away win against ATK in the last game which kept them alive.
“The pressure will be higher if we coaches don’t see that our team is playing well, or the players are not doing what we ask them to do. In my case, I would be much more worried,” said the Costa Rican coach.
Regardless of what happens till the end of the league phase, NorthEast United will finish among the bottom three. They are placed ninth with 11 points from 16 matches and can reach a maximum of 17 points, which won’t be enough to climb higher up the ladder since seventh-placed Mumbai City are already on 20 points. The Highlanders though will want to avoid finishing at the bottom like the inaugural edition in 2014.
“It’s difficult to prepare for a game where we cannot qualify. Difficult to motivate but at the same time, we didn’t have issues regarding that,” said NEUFC assistant coach Elco Schattorie.
The bigger problem for NorthEast United is injuries with several players set to miss the game. Schattorie said injured striker Marcinho is “definitely not playing” while there are question marks over the fitness of central defenders Jose Goncalves and Sambinha, besides Holicharan Narzary.
Mumbai City FC 4 – 2 NorthEast United FC (1 Draw).
Thiago Santos (Mumbai City)
The Brazilian has been one of the Islanders’ go-to men in attack this season. He has used his pace and tenacity to good effect and has shown great goal-scoring instincts. Thiago has been clinical when it comes to finishing and has five goals as well as an assist to his name. The 22-year-old will be an important figure in Mumbai’s bid to bag all three points against NorthEast.
Seiminlen Doungel (NorthEast United)
The 24-year-old has given immense edge to the Highlanders’ attack. He has taken the flanks by storm, using his speed and dribbling ability to outfox opponents. Doungel remains the only Indian so far this season to net a hat-trick and will look to bag some more goals when his team visits Mumbai on Thursday.
Alexandre Guimaraes may opt for a 4-2-3-1 formation that offers them options both in attack and defence.
Goalkeeper: Amrinder Singh
Defenders: Raju Gaikwad, Marcio Rozario, Gerson Vieira, Sehnaj Singh
Midfielders: Sahil Tavora, Achille Emana, Sanju Pradhan, Abinash Ruidas, Thiago Santos
Forward: Rafa Jorda
Mumbai head coach Alexandre Guimaraes on his side’s do-or-die encounter against NorthEast: “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. 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.”
Avram Grant will probably counter with his own 4-2-3-1 formation as the Highlanders look to drag Mumbai out of playoff contention along with them.
Goalkeeper: TP Rehenesh
Defenders: Nirmal Chettri, Jose Goncalves, Sambinha, Reagan Singh
Midfielders: John Mosquera, Rowllin Borges, Seiminlen Doungel, Maic Sema, Halicharan Narzary
Forward: Danilo Lopes
Highlanders’ assistant coach Eelco Schattorie on the game against Mumbai: “Obviously, it’s difficult to prepare for a game when we cannot qualify. It is difficult to motivate the players but at the same time, we didn’t have issues regarding that. Then we have injuries and suspensions. This morning we had some injuries that make it very difficult to form a team. So overall, it is a difficult preparation. Moreover, our opponents Mumbai, whom I saw in some of the games, are not very consistent in the way they play their formations. That makes it more difficult to prepare for the game.”
- The Highlanders have lost the most number of matches this season (11)
NorthEast United FC 0 – 2 Mumbai FC (20th December 2017 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati)
Form Guide (Last five matches)
Mumbai City FC: W L L W L
NorthEast United: L L L L D