Goa vs Mumbai City: Preview and Prediction
With qualification into playoffs on the line, Goa will host the league leaders Mumbai City at the Fatorda Stadium on Saturday, hoping to inch closer to sealing their place in the top six, while the Islanders will be looking to keep their unbeaten streak going and finish the season as the first ‘invincibles’ in history of the league.
Des Buckingham’s side has yet to lose a single game this season, and they look well on course to lift the league winners’ shield and claim the league title. Both sides have just 3 matches remaining to achieve their respective objectives for this season and as the two biggest clubs from the western shores of India lock horns, fans will be in for a treat as the two possession-heavy teams gear up to square off for one last time this campaign.
Carlos Pena’s men come into this fixture after playing an entertaining 1-1 draw with fellow top-six hopefuls Odisha, while the Islanders were held to a 1-1 draw by second-placed Hyderabad in a blockbuster top-of-the-table encounter.
With Buckingham’s side having a 7-point lead over the Nizams, their spot in the semifinals and the league winners shield is virtually guaranteed, albeit the defending champions have a game in hand, Manolo Marquez has already conceded his side can no longer finish at the top of the table.
While the Gaurs have been marred by inconsistency throughout the season, their opponents have been a model of consistency having yet to taste defeat in a single league outing to date.
Buckingham deserves credit for making the Sky Blues an all-conquering side, that has been scoring goals for fun, but they also know how to defend well. On the other hand, scoring goals hasn’t been difficult for Edu Bedia and Co, but they remain prone to late collapses, allowing opposition teams to come back into matches later on.
They had won two games in a row, boosting their hopes of a top-six finish however, the solitary point against Odisha could complicate matters. With 27 points from 17 games, the club co-owned by Virat Kohli currently sits in fourth place in the standings.
Their remaining two matches will be against fellow top-six hopefuls Bengaluru and Chennaiyin so they will hope to pick up all 3 points against the Islanders hoping to avoid any late collapses. Buckingham’s side looks primed for a top-place finish and their motive will be to win their remaining games against the Blues and East Bengal to finish the league stage on a high.
In a total of 21 league meetings between these two sides, the Islanders have a slight edge having enjoyed 9 wins, while the Gaurs have prevailed 7 times. 5 outings between them ended all square. Pena’s side was on the receiving end of a 4-1 hammering at the Mumbai Football Arena in December, earlier this season.
Buckingham has opted for Sanjeev Stalin at right-back and he looks set to start for a third outing in a row, while Vignesh Dakshinamurthy also returned to the left-back berth during the fixture against the defending champions.
Interestingly, the British coach also left Greg Stewart on the bench against Hyderabad but he could start against the Gaurs. Phurba Lachenpa will continue in goal, behind Stalin, Mourtada Fall, Mehtab Singh and Dakshinamurthy.
Apuia and Alberto Noguera are likely to partner Stewart in the midfield, while the attacking trio of Bipin Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte and the league’s top-scorer Jorge Pereyra Diaz are all likely to retain their place.
Pena ditched his tried and tested 4-2-3-1 against the Kalinga Warriors and opted for an attacking 4-3-3, but he is likely to revert back to his favoured system for the next must-win game.
Alvaro Vazquez was impressive and will be hoping to keep his place in the side, with Dheeraj Singh expected to continue in goal. The back four is sorted and needs no changes, Sanson Pereira, Anwar Ali, Fares Arnaout, and Aibanbha Dohling have all been impressive.
While it remains to be seen if Lenny Rodrigues gets a game against the Islanders, both Ayush Chhetri and Brandon Fernandes will start, and so will Noah Sadaoui and Iker Guarrotxena.
Predicted Starting XIs
Goa (4-2-3-1): Dheeraj Singh; Sanson Pereira, Anwar Ali, Fares Arnaout, Aibanbha Dohling; Ayush Chhetri, Lenny Rodrigues; Brandon Fernandes, Noah Sadaoui, Iker Guarrotxena; Alvaro Vazquez.
Mumbai City (4-3-3): Phurba Lachenpa; Sanjeev Stalin, Mourtada Fall, Mehtab Singh, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy; Apuia, Alberto Noguera, Gret Stewart; Bipin Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Jorge Pereyra Diaz.
Buckingham’s side will have a slight edge over the Gaurs, who have blown hot and cold all season, and since Pena’s side have yet to confirm their place in the playoffs, expect them to take the game to the Islanders, who will fancy all three points at the Fatorda Stadium.