Mumbai City FC have been simply sensational this Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season and remain the only unbeaten team in the league so far.

Sitting in pole position with a seven-point lead, Mumbai City FC have scored 47 goals in the process and have reached new milestones while doing so. The Islanders are on a record 16-game unbeaten run along with an 11-game winning streak, setting new standards in the league.

Come Saturday, when Hyderabad FC take their challenge up at the Mumbai Football Arena in Matchweek 18, the fixture will have the highest stakes, with the game going beyond the three points, the bragging rights, and the celebrations. Poised as a virtual League Shield decider, a positive outcome in this highly anticipated game will serve as a boon for either team in their fight for the highly coveted silverware.

However, the game’s affairs won’t be easily settled, with Manolo Marquez’s men sitting just below the table-toppers. The reigning Hero ISL champions have been at the heels of the Islanders ever since they let go of their lead following two consecutive defeats against Kerala Blasters FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, respectively.

And this fixture is a massive opportunity for Hyderabad FC to put pressure on their fellow Shield contenders by inflicting a defeat that can bring to a halt their unstoppable winning momentum and cause a rift in their bull run.

Manolo Marquez’s men come to the game on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run with six wins and one draw. They have netted 20 goals and shipped only four in those seven matches. Being one of the only three teams to snatch points from Mumbai City FC this season, they pose a tremendous threat to the Islanders’ absolute domination, and this game couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

A clash that can call the shots for a potential League Shield Winner, Hero ISL expert Erik Paartalu and commentator Mark Tompkins analyse and assess how Hyderabad FC can conjure a way past the impregnable Mumbai City FC.

Take the game to them: Erik Paartalu

For Hyderabad FC to get anything out of the game against Mumbai, it's as simple as this, they have to stop Mumbai from scoring early, and I don't mean park the bus.

If you’re (Manolo) Marquez, you know that if you don’t get the three points here, the title is basically given to Mumbai City FC. So, a difficult proposition for Marquez, does he go for all three points and open up and risk?

Every team that has done that against Mumbai City FC has lost and struggled. So, the gameplan, I think, is not let Mumbai City FC score and then try and take the game to them.

We saw that against Jamshedpur FC, the Islanders were tested because Jamshedpur FC put them under enormous pressure, but when you go and play at the Mumbai Football Arena, it’s the other way around. They’re comfortable at home, they know the dimensions of the pitch, and they know how to play in that stadium.

Hyderabad FC are not going to beat Mumbai City FC 4-0/5-0/6-0, but it might have to be a snatch and grab job, and I mean that in the best possible way. Sit in, defend, wait for the moments, and hope that big boys like Bartholomew Ogbeche come to the party later on in the game.

Draw inspiration from Jamshedpur FC: Mark Tompkins

If you are Manolo Marquez and you're plotting to try and beat Mumbai City FC, you have to look back to what Aidy Boothroyd’s Jamshedpur FC did in the two games they played against Mumbai. They drew 1-1 at the Mumbai Football Arena back in October, and they pushed them all the way. They were 11 minutes away from causing an upset and possibly getting or inflicting Mumbai City FC's first defeat of the season on the Furnace just a few days ago.

Buckingham has the ability in the squad to make changes that change the game. He took off three midfielders, brought on three quality players, the likes of (Alberto) Noguera and it made the difference. Jamshedpur FC came up with something in two games that frustrated the Des Buckingham side. 

Manolo Marquez is a very clever man tactically, and if there is a way to come past Mumbai City FC, you know he will be able to unlock it. He hasn’t got the strength in his squad, but he’s got resilience in them. Some of the young Indian players that have come into the side know how to fight and to scrap for the cause this season.

I think it is a fascinating game set up at the Mumbai Football Arena on Saturday and it really is a tough one to call. If Hyderabad FC manage to beat Mumbai City FC then of course, it keeps the race for the League Shield wide open for a few more games.