Al-Shabab vs Mumbai City: Preview and Prediction
Mumbai City’s AFC Champions League journey has come to the point where wins in the rest of the matches are a must for the Islanders to reach the knockout round. As they will be facing the undisputed table-toppers Al-Shabab at Riyadh’s Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium on Saturday.
It won’t be an easy fixture for the Indian side as Al-Shabab is yet to lose a game in the 2022 ACL campaign and has already confirmed their qualification for the knockout phase. On the other hand, Mumbai City is currently in the third position of Group B standings with one win and one draw as of now. They are tied with the other two teams Air Force and Al Jazira on four match-points from four games and will have to break the deadlock to get through the next round.
Des Buckingham gave mixed reactions during the post-match press conference after holding the Al Jazira side to a goalless draw in the previous fixture. He said, “Knowing that the players can come here and compete, and come here and win, and take points and perform the way they have, it’s a massive mentality shift, to show that they are more than capable. So that’s what I am really pleased with, regardless of the outcome.”
Al-Shabab’s roster will be turning up for the clash with sky-high confidence after registering a thumping triumph over the Air Force Club earlier this week at the same venue. Interestingly, they have won three matches from four matchdays of the ACL campaign and all the victories have resulted in a 3-0 scoreline in favour of the White Tigers.
While Mumbai City played their first-ever ACL draw after a frustrating goalless encounter with the Emirati side Al Jazira. It was also the first instance of their campaign when they went back to hurdles without conceding a single goal as the guardian Lachenpa kept them clean despite the continuous attacks on his goal.
In the previous face-off between these two combatants, Al-Shabab commenced their continental journey with a fine victory over the blue side. Despite the one-sided scoreline at the full time of their debut ACL match, head coach Buckingham bagged praise for showing a lot of promise which he eventually delivered in the very next game.
Buckingham’s dilemma for the goalkeeping position is rising as his both shot-stoppers have proven themselves on the continental stage. Even after delivering a Man of the Match performance, Mohammad Nawaz was excluded from the lineup of the following game where Phurba Lachenpa started and grabbed the golden opportunity with his super-safe gloves. The 24-year-old Sikkimese wall of Mumbai now tops the most saves charts of 2022 ACL with a whopping total of 20 saves from just three appearances.
The Club also provided an update on Igor Angulo’s calf injury and gave a hint that he is just inches away from his awaited return to action. The inclusion of Vinit Rai strengthened the midfield of the Maharashtrian outfit but by some means, the offensive seems underpowered hence Bradden Inman’s comeback is likely to happen.
Carlos Junior: The Brazilian forward has netted four goals in this tournament and is also the joint top-scorer along with Johor Darul Ta’zim’s Bergson and Al-Duhail’s Edmilson Junior. He has scored two braces till now as he lost the golden opportunity to claim the hat-trick and precious match-ball on both occasions. His link-up play with the likes of Vietto and Banega is doing wonders for the gaffer Marius Sumudica who is hopeful about his overseas guns.
Lalengmawia: The 21-year-old Mizo holding midfielder has shown his capabilities to the Asian continent and also operates the Mumbai midfield like a well-established veteran. He has sustained his deadly partnership with Ahmed Jahouh which bolsters the defensive unit and creates passages for the forward line to launch attacks on the opposition goal as well. In his very first year at the club, Apuia has been able to acquaint himself with the club culture and also loves to play a pivotal role in the system.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Mumbai City (4-2-3-1): Phurba Lachenpa; Rahul Bheke, Mourtada Fall, Mehtab Singh, Mandar Rao Desai; Ahmed Jahouh, Lalengmawia; Bipin Singh, Bradden Inman, Lallianzuala Chhangte; Diego Mauricio
Al-Shabab (4-2-3-1): Fawaz Al-Qarni; Fawaz Al Saqour, Hassan Tambakti, Ahmed Sharahili, Abdullah Al-Shamekh; Hussain Al-Qahtani, Ever Banega; Nawaf Al-Abed, Luciano Vietto, Hattan Bahebri; Carlos Junior
Undoubtedly, all the key factors are favouring the Riyadh-based club to claim all three match-points from the tough fixture. Although Mumbai City will be ensuring a sizzling battle between them and Al-Shabab keep the Indian hopes for the first-ever knockouts qualification alive.