Mohun Bagan Super Giant vs Punjab: Preview and Prediction
The 2023-24 Indian Super League season has kicked off with a thrilling fixture between Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru as the Tuskers avenged their elimination from the 2022-23 ISL with a 2-1 win against the Blues.
Now, after a rest day on Friday, the fans would witness the first double-header of the season as defending champions Mohun Bagan SG go up against the newly-promoted Punjab.
Punjab head coach Staikos Vergetis promised the fans that his side would be taking every match as a cup final as they will be the only side representing the northern region of the country in the tenth season of the ISL.
The Greek tactician said,
“We recognise the difficulties. We will prepare and face them. We are preparing for the unexpected also but we cannot promise anything, we have to show it out on the field. Each game for us is like a final. We have to plan according to the opponent, prepare and give everything game by game. We will see how far we can reach.”
The defending champions have been in hot form since lifting the 2022-23 ISL trophy which seems to have boosted the whole squad to win it again and even go one better by lifting the AFC Cup or doing a treble of three domestic trophies in the ongoing season of Indian football.
The Mariners started their 2023 Durand Cup journey with a 1-0 defeat to East Bengal but bounced back with 5-0 and 2-0 wins over the Bangladesh Army and Punjab respectively. Ferrando’s men qualified for the quarter-final as the top two of the six second-placed teams alongside NorthEast United from Group D.
The knockout stage was an exhilarating affair as it kicked off with a 3-1 win against Mumbai City courtesy of goals from Jason Cummings, Manvir Singh, and Anwar Ali overpowering Jorge Pereyra Dias’ solitary strike. It was followed by a 2-1 win against Goa where Noah Sadoui’s early strike was cancelled out by a Cummings penalty and a screamer from Armando Sadiku sealed a place in the final against East Bengal.
In the second Kolkata Derby of the season, MBSG gained the bragging right back with 10-men Mohun Bagan out-scoring the Red and Golds courtesy of a Dimitrios Petratos goal to lift the 17th Durand Cup title in the club’s history. On Tuesday, MBSG thrashed 10-men Odisha 4-0 in the AFC Cup Group Stage opener and is now set to play against Maziya in their second match after facing Punjab and Bengaluru in the ISL.
Unlike the Mariners, Punjab is down in the barrel having failed in the task to win any of their last five competitive matches. In the 2023 Durand Cup, the recently promoted side was grouped with giants Mohun Bagan SG and East Bengal along with the Bangladesh Army.
Punjab had the unenviable task of facing MBSG in their Durand Cup opener and they fell 2-0 to the wounded giants but showed a better performance in the 0-0 draw against the Bangladesh Army. With the last match having no consequence for both sides, Punjab fought valiantly but fell short in the 1-0 loss to eventual finalists East Bengal.
Most recently, Punjab has drawn both of their matches in the Punjab Super League and would be looking to turn around their fortunes in the top-tier league of the country’s footballing structure.
Mohun Bagan and Punjab have faced each other a total of nine times across the I-League and the Durand Cup. The Mariners have managed to be on the winning side six times with Punjab winning once back in 2018 while two of the fixtures have ended in a draw.
While the Mariners have scored 14 goals in the nine fixtures, the Panchkula-based side has only managed four goals against Mohun Bagan with two of those goals coming in separate 1-1 draws while a 2-1 win was recorded back in January 2018.
In the most recent outing between the two sides, MBSG displayed a fine performance with an own goal from Melroy Assisi and a Hugo Boumous strike early in the second half rounding off the match.
For Punjab, Amarjit Singh Kiyam is the major name missing as the 22-year old is a part of the Asian Games squad led by skipper Sunil Chhetri. New signings Prasanth K, Mashoor Shereef, Nikhil Prabhu, Kingslee Fernandes, and Leon Augustine would be hoping to make their debuts against MBSG in front of a packed Kolkata crowd.
Ashique Kuruniyan sustained a knee injury whilst on international duty as India went up against Iraq in the King’s Cup opener in Thailand and the winger has been effectively ruled out for the season with the recovery period set to be an extended one as per several reports.
Predicted Starting XIs
Mohun Bagan Super Giant (3-5-2): Vishal Kaith, Anwar Ali, Hector Yuste, Subhashish Bose, Manvir Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Glan Martins, Sahal Abdul Samad, Liston Colaco, Jason Cummings, Dimitrios Petratos
Punjab (3-5-2): Kiran Limbu, Nikhil Prabhu, Melroy Assisi, Mashoor Shereef, Leon Augustine, Kingslee Fernandes, Ricky Shabong, Madih Talal, Prasanth K, Juan Mera, Luka Majcen
Juan Ferrando’s men have the form and the head-to-head record in their favor and the home advantage is also with the Kolkata-based side who will be favored to start their ISL campaign on a winning note after losing 2-1 to Chennaiyin in their 2022-23 ISL opening game.
On the other hand, Punjab is set to be tested by MBSG, Goa, and NorthEast United in the ISL before the first international break and would be glad to walk away with 3 points from their first three matches.