Mumbai City vs Air Force Club: Preview and Prediction￼
It’s the final matchday of the 2022 AFC Champions League group stages for Islanders who are carrying the Indian representation on the continental level. As Mumbai City FC is aiming to complete a double over the reigning Iraqi champions Air Force Club at King Fahd International Stadium on Wednesday.
The recent triumph of the Air Force Club better known as ‘Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya’ has brought them inches closer to the qualification ticket for the knockout round. While Mumbai is currently standing in the bottom place of ACL Group B standings with only four points from five outings. Their only victory from the debut continental campaign came against the same club who they’re going to face again on the sixth matchday.
The previous fixture against table-toppers Al-Shabab was nothing but a nightmare for the West Coast Brigade who witnessed the Blues suffering a 6-0 disaster. While addressing the defeat, head coach Des Buckingham said that it was a learning day for him and also urged his boys to regroup quickly. He added, “We’ll take learnings from this game which is very important and the experiences the players have gained playing this team and at this level, they’ll stand us in good stead both now and in the future.”
Mumbai’s Asian dream was crushed by the Al-Shabab side as the chances of them qualifying for the next stage are very slim now. Islanders held the Riyadh-based club on 2-0 at the first-half whistle but the second half was the time when mass destruction was staged by the White Tigers. The star Saudi winger Hattan Bahebri completed his hat-trick in just the 66th minute of the game while a forgettable own goal was also registered on account of the skipper Mourtada Fall.
Air Force enjoyed their second victory over Emirati club Al Jazira on a 3-2 scoreline in favour of the Falcons. It was a 5-goal thriller where an injury-time winner from Sherif Abdul-Kadhim gave them all three points against the direct competitors for the possible Round of 16 qualifications.
In the previous face-off between these two combatants, Mumbai City registered their first-ever victory in the AFC Champions League by edging the Riyadh-based club on a 2-1 scoreline. Mumbai’s local boy Rahul Bheke was the one who scored the winning header for his home club after Diego Mauricio’s equaliser through penalty. It will give a psychological advantage for the boys in Sky Blues while taking the field against a side whom they defeated a couple of weeks ago at the same venue.
Another local lad Raynier Fernandes started the previous game for the Maharashtrian outfit but unfortunately couldn’t have a positive individual outing and may get excluded from the next one. Vikram Pratap Singh or Bradden Inman are the other alternative options for Buckingham as he earlier tried them in the same position. Mohammad Nawaz is also likely to receive a start ahead of Phurba Lachenpa in Mumbai’s goal line.
Air Force Club has added multiple high-profile names to their roster to divert focus solely on Asian glory. The 29-year-old Togolese centre-back Wilson Akakpo has formed a deadly duo with Roderick Miller in the heart of the club’s defensive line. The Iraqi gaffer Hakeem Shaker has proved himself a flexible tactician who adapts his roster according to the circumstance and opposition.
Igor Angulo: After fully recovering from the calf injury, the Spaniard made his debut ACL appearance against Al-Shabab replacing Diego Mauricio in the starting eleven. The Golden Boot winner of the 2019-20 ISL edition was the joint second-highest scorer of the following season having scored 10 goals in 19 appearances for the Islanders. Although he had a forgettable maiden outcome where his club suffered the biggest blow on the Asian stage, the veteran striker is capable of turning the tables outta nowhere.
Ibrahim Bayesh: The local lad of the Baghdad-based club is just 21-year-old but his playstyle and game instincts are much more mature than his age. He broke the deadlock of the previous fixture in just the sixth minute of the gameplay which gave them momentum in the early minutes. He has been playing a pivotal role for his home club and the Iraqi fans must be hoping for him to sustain it further.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Mumbai City FC (4-2-3-1): Phurba Lachenpa; Rahul Bheke, Mourtada Fall, Mehtab Singh, Mandar Rao Desai; Ahmed Jahouh, Lalengmawia; Bipin Singh, Bradden Inman/Vikram Pratap Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte; Igor Angulo
Air Force Club (4-2-3-1): Mohammed Saleh; Mustafa Mohammed, Wilson Akakpo, Roderick Miller, Dhurgham Ismail; Safaa Hadi, Mohammed Ali Abbood; Ibrahim Bayesh, Mehdi Boukassi, Hussein Jabbar; Hammadi Ahmed
Even a match-point sharing from this fixture can guarantee Air Force Club the runners-up finish in Group B. But the Falcons must be aiming to take it all in order to march for the Round of 16 stronger. They will be summoned by the Islanders who will leave no stone unturned to beat the Iraqi side the second time in the same season.