The Mariners’ sole priority is to deny Sergio Lobera’s men a victory.

Just like that, after four months of high-intensity action, the final showdown of the Indian Super League is upon us. Mumbai City will square off with ATK Mohun Bagan with an AFC Champions League spot at stake. At one point, the Islanders seemed to be running away with the top spot in the table.

Some weeks later, the Mariners looked well set to qualify to the continental championship. In the end, the fate of the two teams is entirely in their hands. Mumbai need no less than a win to claim the summit place. ATKMB’s sole priority is to deny Sergio Lobera’s men a victory. Keeping that in context, let us take a look at the three key player battles from this forthcoming match:

3. Ahmed Jahouh Vs Carl McHugh

Despite some moments of unpredictability, Ahmed Jahouh remains ever so crucial for the fate of Mumbai City FC. The Moroccan midfielder dictates play and pulls the strings for the team from the middle of the park. His diagonal balls, set-pieces and the ability to quickly transition the play from defence to attack drive Mumbai’s forward forays. The team’s entire gameplay flows from Jahouh’s creative acumen.

He was missing in the side’s last match against ATK Mohun Bagan, but Antonio Lopez Habas will surely task Carl McHugh to restrict the former FC Goa midfielder’s influence in the coming match. McHugh has recorded 5.52 tackles, two clearances and 1.52 interceptions per game this season. He is well-adept at beating Jahouh at his own game; that is, breaking up opposition’s play in midfield and then triggering attacking moves instantaneously. The way in which these two contain each other’s impact will largely determine the outcome of this contest.

2. Bipin Singh Vs Pritam Kotal

WATCH: Bipin Singh scored a fantastic hat-trick against Odisha FC in their previous game

Bipin Singh has well and truly come of age under the stewardship of Sergio Lobera. His hat-trick in the must-win encounter against Odisha FC was a clear testament to that fact. The left winger has scored five goals and notched four assists in 18 appearances this season. He has consistently stretched play, made threatening inward runs and displayed a sense of innate composure in and around the box. Singh has become more vital to Mumbai’s style of play in Hugo Boumous’ recent absence and he will be in the quest to run riot yet again against Habas’ men.

On the other hand, Pritam Kotal has only grown as a player this season. He has defended staunchly and that clearly reflects in the numbers that he has racked up too. Kotal has registered 3.76 tackles, 2.17 interceptions along with 3.82 clearances in each game on an average in ISL 2020-21. The seasoned defender will be well aware of the challenges that Bipin poses from the left flank and Habas will count on him to deal with those difficulties. Kotal will neutralize one of Lobera’s most crucial attacking threats if he manages to contain Bipin’s impact on proceedings.

1. Mourtada Fall Vs Roy Krishna

WATCH: Roy Krishna scored his 14th goal of the season against SC East Bengal in the Kolkata Derby last week

Roy Krishna is the man that makes the ATK Mohun Bagan system tick. The Fijian striker is efficient, dynamic and incredibly reliable in the toughest of encounters. With a 25% conversion rate, Krishna has scored 14 goals and bagged four assists in 19 games in this campaign. Even in the team’s pragmatic approach, the 33-year-old’s terrific productivity upfront means that the team discover a way to bag three points more often than not.

However, Krishna will face the towering figure of Mourtada Fall as ATK Mohun Bagan lock horns with Mumbai City. Be it last-ditch tackles, vital clearances, playing out from the back or adding a goalscoring element from set-pieces; Fall has done it all for Mumbai. He has an answer for every challenge that Krishna will throw at the Islanders. One can expect a grueling contest between these two top players at the GMC Stadium. The fate of the two teams’ entire season might depend on the result of the battle between these two individuals.  

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