Hero ISL 2022-23: Key battles to watch out for in Bengaluru FC vs Mumbai City FC
The League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC will travel to Bengaluru FC's backyard for the second leg of the semi-final at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore on Sunday after losing 1-0 in the first leg at home in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season.
Bengaluru FC have had success in finding loopholes in Des Buckingham's side who looked unbreakable in the league stage before they lost to the Blues in Bengaluru in the league stage. Grayson's men then repeated the feat in the first leg of the semi-final where it was Sunil Chhetri's Solitary goal that gave them the all-important lead.
The first leg saw Mumbai City FC register only three shots on target, their lowest total in the league so far. The home team was dominant from the first minute but the Blues' defence led by Sandesh Jhingan and Aleksandar Jovanovic stood strong to keep the clean sheet against a quality attacking side of Mumbai City FC.
All is not lost for Buckingham's men as they have displayed an expansive brand of football which has surprised not only the fans but the experts as well throughout the league stage and which is something that would instill confidence in the travelling fans. The Islanders would be hoping to break Bengaluru FC's defence line with an arsenal of attacking players at his disposal with Jorge Diaz and Lallianzuala Chhangte being in their season's top goalscorers with 11 and 10 goals respectively.
Ahead of what promises to be an exciting battle, here are the three key individual battles that could determine the outcome of this exciting second-leg semi-final clash.
Mourtada Fall vs Roy Krishna
Roy Krishna has been crucial in Grayson's plan to head the attacking line alongside youngster Sivasakthi Narayanan. The Fijian striker has scored five goals for the Blues with four goals and two assists coming in the last few matches to help Bengaluru FC secure the top-six finish. Krishna was kept relatively quiet in the first leg by Mumbai City FC as Mourtada Fall closed him down well and didn't allow him to affect the game.
With the Islanders moving up the pitch in search of a goal, keeping tabs on Krishna and Sivasakthi who were always on the lookout for the counter-attacks was big challenge. The towering centre-back got the better of Krishna on multiple occasions and managed to keep the tricky attacker silent.
Bengaluru FC head coach Grayson would be expecting more out of his star attacker who has a stellar goalscoring record in the knockouts. Against a wounded Mumbai City FC, Grayson would need Krishna to be at his best.
Javi Hernandez vs Greg Stewart
In the clash of two commanding midfielders who are the playmakers for their respective teams, the second leg is the perfect setting to witness which player comes out on top when it comes to the battle in midfield.
Greg Stewart has been the pivotal cog when it comes to stringing the Islanders midfielder together. The Scottish midfielder has scored eight goals while bagging seven assists to his name in the league matches. The 32-year-old would be looking to combine with in-form attackers like Daiz and Chhangte to break the Blues' resilient defence with his eye-catching playmaking abilities and one of his strongest weapons, free-kicks in and around the penalty box.
The Blues have one of the most consistent midfielders in the Hero ISL in Javi Hernandez. The Spanish midfielder has been a constant name in the playing XI for head coach Grayson in the league stages and has performed excellently with six goals and five assists to his name. Hernandez would be crucial in leading the Blues' young midfield against an experienced one of Mumbai City FC.
Jorge Diaz vs Aleksandar Jovanovic
Often, the high stake fixtures are decided by an individual moment of brilliance. And Jorge Diaz is known for producing brilliant individual moments that have sent stadiums in frenzy. Meanwhile, Aleksandar Jovanovic has stood strong to protect Bengaluru FC's goal throughout the season and he would be expected to repeat the heroics of the first leg where he helped the team keep the all-important clean sheet to give the advantage to Grayson's side heading into the second leg.
Diaz has been the difference-maker when it comes to leading the team from the front in terms of goal-scoring. The Argentine Forward failed to continue his hot streak form in the first leg of the semi-final clash and it was evident with the Islanders struggling to threaten Bengaluru FC's defence. In the fixture, Buckingham would be relying on his leading goalscorer to guide the team through to the final and add to his tally of 11 goals in 20 matches.
After an exemplary performance in the first leg, where Jovanovic had all the answers for Mumbai City FC's attackers, the Blues would bank their hopes once again on the Australian defender to keep the opponent's attacker at bay and lead the team from behind. The 33-year-old will be the responsible man to keep the likes of Jorge Diaz, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Greg Stewart at bay while displaying his leadership skills to keep the team focused in a fixture which can go to the extra time if needed.