While the Islanders are looking to cement their place at the top of the table, Bengaluru may try to gain some positive momentum ahead of the AFC Cup.
Mumbai City FC are set to take on Naushad Moosa’s Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL), at the GMC Stadium on Monday. With four games left, the pressure on the Islanders is higher than ever. On the other hand, the Blues have finally revealed their long-term replacement for Carles Cuadrat by hiring Marco Pezzaiuoli on a three-year contract. Pezzaiuoli has been associated with the German youth national team previously and will lead the team in their AFC Cup campaign in April.
By and large, it’s pretty clear that Sergio Lobera and his men will be fighting tooth and nail for the top spot. Meanwhile, Bengaluru still continue to have an unlikely but outside chance for a top-four spot.
Mumbai City FC
For Mumbai City, almost everything is on the line. It’s amazing how the fortunes of a side can drastically transform within a year. At this same point last season, the Islanders were somehow trying to break into the playoffs spots, but to no avail. Now, they occupy the first position, but there’s an increasing anxiety of the Islanders losing out on it.
ATK Mohun Bagan have commendably built pressure from the second slot and have reduced their gap with Mumbai City to a solitary point. Meanwhile, the Islanders’ recent decline in form is quite apparent from the standings. They were cruising along having collected 25 points in their first 10 matches. However, the team have bagged merely nine points in the six games since then and have allowed Antonio Habas’ side to catch-up.
“Our target is trying to arrive the final game against ATKMB with a lead of four points,” Lobera had said after the last match. Well, the team have conceded the cushion they relished over Habas’ men in the last few games. Now, is the time to turn the gear on and see off the last four games with the maximum points possible. The team will not want to lose out on the coveted AFC Champions League spot after dominating oppositions for the better half of the campaign.
Bengaluru FC are at seventh place on the league table with 19 points to their name from 17 games. They have collected just six points from their last five games. They have also lacked the incisive edge required to get past opponents regularly. Even if Moosa manages to lead the team to three consecutive victories from hereon, the team will have notched 28 points. Currently, Hyderabad FC have 24 points from 17 games, NorthEast United (23) and Jamshedpur (21) closely follow them. In all likelihood, the Blues are set to miss out on qualification. However, they have an important AFC Cup campaign to look forward to in April.
The majority of this squad will be retained and the team will then be reinvigorated under the tutelage of Pezzaiouli. Maybe, the team should set their sights on that and hope to gather some positive momentum ahead of those matches. This can re-instill some confidence in out-of-form players and hold them in good stead for the journey under their new coach. It can be argued that Moosa could have better utilized his opportunity to manage a top-tier ISL team for more than half of the ongoing campaign. However, bygones are bygones and the 49-year-old should instead look to at least finish on a high with no clear aim for now.
Hugo Boumous will miss the next two games for Mumbai City FC due to suspension. He might even face a longer ban for his abusive language against the referee during their game against FC Goa.
In Bengaluru FC’s case, Leon Augustine, Ashique Kuruniyan and Juanan will not feature against the Islanders. Juanan is ruled out of the rest of the season due to injury, while Augustine and Kuruniyan could return in the days to come. Pratik Choudhari is another player that will be absent from the Blues’ squad on Monday. The defender picked up his fourth booking of the season against ATK Mohun Bagan last week which lead to a one-match ban.
Mumbai City FC relish a dominant record over their upcoming opponents. The two teams have faced each other seven times previously and the Blues have tasted success only twice. The Islanders have won four games whereas one match resulted in a draw.
Both teams last faced each other earlier this season, on January 5. Sergio Lobera and his boys won the game 3-1 thanks to goals from Bipin Singh and Mourtada Fall.
Mumbai City FC: Amrinder (GK); Ranawade, Fall, Santana, Mandar; Borges, Jahouh; Jackichand, Goddard, Bipin; Le Fondre.
Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet (GK); Khabra, Bheke, Fran, Ajith; Silva, Paartalu, Suresh; Udanta, Opseth, Chhetri.
Men to Watch
Bipin Singh (Mumbai City FC)
Hugo Boumous’ absence will put a lot of creative burden on Bipin Singh, who has been excellent from the flanks this season. The winger seems to have developed a sense of composure in his gameplay under the tutelage of Sergio Lobera. He has been much more decisive upfront and delivered incisive passes to the final third.
Singh’s ball-control was never in doubt. He is unafraid to take on defenders and beat them at will. But, it’s his actions closer to the box that have immensely benefitted Mumbai upfront. The 25-year-old has scored twice and assisted on four occasions this season. He will have to further improve his displays towards the fag end of the campaign, if Boumous’ suspension is extended to more than two games.
Erik Paartalu (Bengaluru FC)
The likes of Ahmed Jahouh, Hernan Santana and Rowllin Borges will be absolutely crucial to Mumbai’s goalscoring chances given the current situation. Anyways, the Jahouh-Borges duo has been rock-solid in the middle of the park this season. They have shown incredible defensive restraint and are instrumental in the team’s forward forays too.
Bengaluru will be relying on Erik Paartalu to contain the overbearing influence of Mumbai’s midfield. Paartalu has been at the centre of all of Bengaluru’s action this season. He has recorded an impressive 46.07 passes per game, demonstrating his heavy involvement in matches. The 31-year-old also registers a little over two tackles every match. This trait will be particularly crucial to break down Mumbai’s attacks.
Did You Know?
- Mumbai City FC players have collectively been shown the most yellow cards (45) amongst all players this season.
- Mumbai City FC have won their last four matches against Bengaluru FC.
- Sergio Lobera has led his teams (FC Goa and Mumbai City FC) to only two victories in seven face-offs against Bengaluru FC since ISL 2017-18.
The live telecast of the match between Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC will be available on Star Sports 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 2 SD & HD (English), Star Sports Hindi 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 3 and several other regional languages. Live streaming of the match will be available on Hotstar and Jio TV.