Hero ISL 2022-23 Semi-final: Key battles to watch out for in Mumbai City FC vs Bengaluru FC
Mumbai City FC will take on Bengaluru FC in the semi-final of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season, which will be played over two legs. The first leg of the playoff tie will be played at the Mumbai Football Arena, in Mumbai, on Tuesday followed by the return leg at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru on March 12.
Bengaluru FC defeated Kerala Blasters 1-0 in extra time in the first knockout fixture to make it into the semi-finals. Interestingly, it was the Blues who inflicted the first defeat of the season on Mumbai City FC subsequent to their Shield triumph after going 18 games unbeaten.
The Blues have had a brilliant defensive display ever since Grayson turned his team into a 3-5-2 formation, which has made it hard for the opposition teams to break them down. Alternatively, the Islanders are known for their free-flowing football, with several players combining for the attack that has seen the side score over 50 goals in the season thus far. There will be some interesting matchups that could influence the outcome of the semi-finals over two legs.
Here is a closer look at some of the key battles to watch out for:
Greg Stewart vs Suresh Singh Wangjam
Often, matches are decided in the midfield, and this time around, it will be no different either. It will be interesting to see how Simon Grayson’s side fares against the Mumbai City FC's star player, Greg Stewart. Stewart has been a key figure for his side throughout the season with 14 goal involvements in 18 appearances for Mumbai City FC.
Suresh Singh Wangjam will be the man responsible for figuring out how to keep Stewart quiet. Wangjam, who is known as a workhorse in the middle of the park, will be crucial in breaking down the transitional plays during the game. The youngster, who has featured regularly for Grayson’s side, is one of the players who has heavily contributed in their recent resurgence since the turn of the year, with the Blues securing nine straight wins in 2023.
Rostyn Griffiths vs Sivasakthi Narayanan
In 21-year-old forward Sivasakthi Narayanan, Bengaluru FC have one of their own rising stars, who made his name on the centre stage of the Hero ISL with eight goal involvements in 17 matches for the Blues. Another important figure in the Bengaluru FC side, Grayson has put his faith in Sivasakthi to lead the line alongside Roy Krishna. The youngster has formed a good understanding with the likes of Krishna and Javi Hernandez, wreaking havoc with his pace and goal-poaching instincts.
The striker will be up against an experienced defender in Rostyn Griffiths, which will be an intriguing battle to look forward to. Griffiths has been instrumental in Mumbai City FC's league-winning campaign. The 34-year-old has made 17 appearances, recording a goal and an assist while helping his side record seven clean sheets besides being a central asset in the team's backline.
Jorge Pereyra Diaz vs Sandesh Jhingan
Mumbai City FC’s Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Greg Stewart have established themselves as one of the most fearsome duos in the Hero ISL this season. If Stewart has been Mumbai City FC's creative spark in midfield, then 32-year-old forward Diaz, has been striking with firepower in front of the goal. The Argentine has 17 goal involvements in 18 matches for Mumbai City FC this season. In the semi-finals against Bengaluru FC, Diaz will be under the spotlight given the form that he has carried throughout the season.
The Blues do have an experienced defender in Sandesh Jhingan, who will be up against Diaz. Jhingan’s ability to constantly be vocal on the field will be key, and the Indian international will hope to make use of his experience and keep Diaz quiet. It is going to be fascinating to see who comes out on top in a fixture that carries a lot of expectations and excitement among the fans.