Mumbai City vs Bengaluru: Preview and Prediction
After two action-packed playoff games, the four semifinalists were confirmed and in the first of the two-legged knockout tie, ISL shield winners Mumbai City will host Bengaluru at the Mumbai Football Arena on Tuesday.
It will be a battle between the two most in-form sides in the league, with the table toppers set to square off against the Blues who are on a 9-match winning streak, including their 1-0 playoff win over Kerala Blasters.
The match witnessed an unprecedented chain of events as Sunil Chhetri’s quickly taken free-kick caught Prabhsukhan Gill off guard. Subsequently, Ivan Vukomanovic called his players off the field and they abandoned the match thus sealing progress into the semifinals for Simon Grayson’s men.
Meanwhile, Des Buckingham’s side comes into this fixture on the back of two back-to-back defeats, the first of which was a 2-1 loss to the Blues, whereas, in their final league outing of the campaign, the Islanders lost to East Bengal 1-0.
The shield winners were hoping to become the first team to remain invincible throughout the league campaign although it was Grayson’s side who shattered this dream of the Islanders as they dished out an impressive victory courtesy of goals from Sunil and Javi Hernandez, which Mourtada Fall scored a solitary goal for his side.
Following that setback, the defeat to the Red and Golds means that Buckingham’s men have hardly had the ideal preparation for a semifinal tie although judging by their performances throughout the season, they are capable of taking on any side in the league.
They’ve also had a slight advantage of having some extra days off, while the Blues were pushed to extra time by a spirited Blasters outfit and that fatigue could well have a telling impact in the latter stages of the match. Meanwhile, Grayson’s side last tasted a defeat in December and since then they’ve had a spring in their step, which may well help them inflict a giant-killing.
Chhetri’s side dominated their opponents in the playoff tie and was unlucky to not have won the fixture in regulation time as they were kept at bay by a spirited performance from Gill.
Talking about the past record between these two clubs, there’s little to choose from as the Islanders have a slight edge having won six of the 12 meetings in the league to date, whereas the Blues have claimed five wins.
Only one fixture in the past has ended in a draw, and while Grayson’s side did put an end to the unbeaten run of Buckingham and Co, in the reverse fixture earlier this side, the table toppers registered a thumping 4-0 win.
Both coaches are expected to put out tried and tested playing XIs for the semifinal match, with Chhetri likely to start on the bench again, and Aleksandar Jovanovic was subbed off in the previous match after looking in some discomfort, so Alan Costa may start from the get-go.
Buckingham meanwhile rested many of his first-team stars who are all likely to return for the all-important game. The ever-present Phurba Lachenpa will remain in goal, while Sanjeev Stalin, Fall, Mehtab Singh, and Vignesh Dakshinamurthy will form the back four.
The trio of Apuia, Ahmed Jahouh, and Alberto Noguera are expected to start in the midfield, with Indian duo Lallianzuala Chhangte and Bipin Singh providing service to Jorge Pereyra Diaz up front.
For the Blues, the great Indian wall Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will be between the sticks, Bruno Ramires and Sandesh Jhinghan will partner Costa at the back, while Prabis Das and Naorem Roshan Singh will provide width from the flanks.
Suresh Singh Wangjam and Rohit Kumar are expected to retain their places in the engine room behind the impressive creative fulcrum Javi. The experienced marksman Roy Krishna will be partnered by the young and electric Sivasakthi Narayanan up front.
Predicted Starting XIs
Mumbai City (4-3-3): Phurba Lachenpa; Sanjeev Stalin, Mourtada Fall, Mehtab Singh, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy; Lalengmawia Ralte, Ahmed Jahouh, Alberto Noguera; Lallianzuala Chhangte, Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Bipin Singh
Bengaluru (3-4-1-2): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Bruno Ramires, Sandesh Jhinghan, Alan Costa; Prabis Das, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Rohit Kumar, Naorem Roshan Singh; Javi Hernandez; Roy Krishna, Sivasakthi Narayanan
Despite their two defeats of late, the Islanders remain a force to be reckoned with, although the Blues have won 9 matches on the trot and come into this fixture with momentum on their side. Grayson did mastermind a win over Buckingham’s side recently, but to do that in front of a jam-packed Mumbai Football Arena will be an uphill task.