Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC square-off in what promises to be an enthralling affair between the top two teams in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday.
The reverse fixture ended 1-1 last month where Mumbai went down to 10 but could have easily picked up three points, if not for their wastefulness upfront.
Coach Jorge Costa was pleased that the ISL had a winter break and is raring to kick-start their campaign again.
“I am used to having the break and I like it. It was nice to spend some time thinking about our games. It was good for the players to get some rest physically and mentally. I know we were on a good run but I think the players and I took some rest and spent time with our families,” said the Portuguese coach.
The Islanders will miss the services of defender Joyner Lourenco who picked up an injury in their last game against Kerala Blasters. As cover, they have roped in Jamshedpur FC’s Sanjay Balmuchu on loan until the end of season.
Jorge Costa will continue to rely on his foreign contingent in attack with Moudou Sougou, Rafael Bastos and Arnold Issoko forming an effective three-pronged attack. Sougou, in particular, has been in good form with nine goals so far.
Sehnaj Singh is available for selection after serving his one game suspension but it remains unlikely that Costa would be tempted into handing him a start. Instead, Raynier Fernandes and Milan Singh are touted to continue to share the midfield load alongside the impressive Paulo Machado.
Mumbai are second on the table, with 24 points from 12 games. However, five of Islanders’ next six games are against direct rivals for the play-off spots and slip-ups could be costly. Costa will be well aware of the fact and would have ensured his side are well-drilled and primed for the challenge.
Meanwhile, Bengaluru FC are still the team to beat in the ISL. The Blues have been unbeaten for 11 matches and would look to extend that run.
“It’s nice to have this unbeaten run going, but the key aim is to book a place in the play-off stages as soon as we can. Whether the long break will affect our momentum or not, only time will tell. But we have been working hard and hope to keep the run going for as long as we can,” said coach Carles Cuadrat.
The good news is that star striker Miku has returned to fitness which would add more teeth to their firepower. However, Nishu Kumar is still recovering and may not be available for the tie.
They have the meanest defence in the league with a mere eight goals leaked in which would certainly pose a challenge for the famed Mumbai attack.
However, Mumbai is only one of the three teams who hasn’t been defeated by Carles Cuadrat’s Bengaluru this term. Albert Serran and Juanan have formed an effective partnership but the key for Bengaluru will be Dimas Delgado’s playmaking skill from the centre of the park.