Al Jazira vs Mumbai City: Preview and Prediction￼
After a historic triumph over Air Force Club in the previous fixture, Des Buckingham and his boys are ready to take down the challenge of Al Jazira. Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium will be hosting this high-voltage contest between Mumbai City FC and the reigning Emirati champions on Thursday.
When the referee blew the final whistle, he ensured that Mumbai City had achieved the feat of becoming the first Indian club to win a match in the prestigious stage of the AFC Champions League. FC Goa managed to draw three games in their previous campaign but couldn’t taste victory out of six fixtures while Islanders have done it in their second ACL game itself.
During the preparations for Asia’s most prestigious club competition, Buckingham made a promise to the West Coast Brigade stating, “We want to be the first Indian club to win a match at the AFC Champions League”. And the 37-year-old young gaffer of the Maharashtrian outfit delivered the promise by bringing joy to the fans of the whole Indian contingent.
Al Jazira is yet to register a win in their AFC Champions League campaign, losing both fixtures against Al-Shabab and Air Force Club. The Abu Dhabi based club is sitting at the bottom of the Group B standings without a single match-points.
Despite losing their opening game against Al-Shabab, head coach Buckingham opted to stick to their playstyle and eventually the spirit paid off beautifully in triumph over Air Force Club. Diego Mauricio’s kick from the penalty spot equalled the scoreline by 1-1 in the 70th minute of the play. Five minutes later, Rahul Bheke the first Indian goalscorer in the history of ACL gave Islanders the lead which was kept till the final whistle.
Des Buckingham may not consider any changes in the starting eleven of the Islanders to continue the winning momentum. Although he will be in a dilemma when Mohammad Nawaz will prove his fitness as the goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa has done a commendable job in his absence and his exclusion from the lineup will be a tough decision for the team management.
The Abu Dhabi Spiders’ roster features a few elite names like Ali Khasif, Thulani Serero, Abdoulaye Diaby and Ali Mabkhout who will be under the spotlight when these two combatants take on each other. Milos Kosanovic has been excluded from the matchday squads of both opening fixtures as the Serbian defender’s presence is dearly missed by the gaffer, Marcel Keizer.
Mourtada Fall: When Amrinder Singh left Mumbai’s command to join the ATK Mohun Bagan side, Fall was handed over the captain’s armband. The 34-year-old Senegalese defender excelled as a skipper throughout the 2021-22 Indian Super League season and carried the reputation in Asia as well. He appeared as a rock in the Mumbai backline and the West Coast Brigade must be expecting more such performances from the commander.
Ali Mabkhout: Ali who joined the youth side of Al Jazira at the age of 14 has now become a living legend of his boyhood club. The 31-year-old striker has played for only one club throughout his professional football career spanning 14 years till the date. The highest goalscorer of UAE in International football will be out on the field to carry the pride of Abu Dhabi on his shoulders against the opponents from Indian soil.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Al Jazira (3-4-2-1): Ali Khasif; Mohammed Al Attas, Khalifa Al Hammadi, Zayed Jassim; Mohammed Rabii, Thulani Serero, Abdullah Ramadan, Abdulla Idrees; Abdoulaye Diaby, Zayed Al Ameri; Ali Mabkhout
Mumbai City FC (4-2-3-1): Phurba Lachenpa; Amey Ranawade, Rahul Bheke, Mourtada Fall, Mandar Rao Desai; Ahmed Jahouh, Lalengmawia; Bipin Singh, Vikram Pratap Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte; Diego Mauricio
Mumbai City has no match for Al Jazira’s firepower on paper but the tables have turned drastically in favour of the Islanders after the first two matchdays. It is the Maharashtrian outfit that is the favorite to win this contest in order to retain themselves in the Top 2 of Group B standings. While the confidence of the blue roster and team management will be also sky-high.