Number crunch: ATK Mohun Bagan need Indian forwards to step up against Mumbai City FC
ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC have been competing for similar goals in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) for the past few seasons and often there has been very little to separate the two teams.
In the 2020-21 campaign, the Mariners and Islanders fought till the final match of the season for the League Winners’ Shield and locked horns again in the Hero ISL final a few days later. Mumbai City FC edged out their opponents on both occasions to come out on top.
In the 2021-22 campaign, Juan Ferrando’s side beat Mumbai City FC to a semi-final spot as Des Buckingham’s side missed out.
Both teams spent the build-up to the 2022-23 campaign strengthening their teams, adding quality Indian and foreign players to their ranks, probably to outdo each other.
While the Islanders have been able to maximise their new signings, the Mariners have not quite been able to get the most out of their recruits.
Ten points separate these two favourites on the points table as an unbeaten Mumbai City FC have a bit of daylight between them and their fierce rivals, ATK Mohun Bagan.
Injuries have not helped the Kolkata giants as Ferrando has struggled to field a consistent team, but the biggest difference between the two sides has been in front of the goal.
Mumbai City FC have scored 40 goals this season, a tally which is comfortably more than double the 17 goals that ATK Mohun Bagan have netted this season. This is a massive gap between two teams competing for the same target this season.
These two teams have never had such a big difference in terms of goals scored in the past. In the 2020-21 season, the Islanders scored 39 goals as compared to the Mariners’ 32. Last campaign, it was the Kolkata side who netted more as they conjured up 39 goals to the Mumbai outfit’s 36 strikes.
Buckingham’s side have managed to elevate their attack to an altogether different level with the additions of Greg Stewart and Jorge Pereyra Diaz but it’s their Indian attacking duo who have done the most damage.
Lallianzuala Chhangte and Bipin Singh have scored 13 goals among themselves which is just four short of ATK Mohun Bagan’s overall goal tally. Last season, it was the Mariners who led the goalscoring charts for goals by Indian players but this season, it’s Mumbai City FC who have taken over.
The lack of goals from Indian players has been the Mariners’ Achilles Heel this season and it’s proving to be the difference between them and their next opponents who are threatening to pull away in the race for the League Winners’ Shield.
Indians have contributed just five of Mariners’ 17 goals this season as Ferrando’s team have been heavily reliant on Dimitri Petratos and Hugo Boumous for goals who have scored nine of their total goals this season.
In contrast, Mumbai City FC’s Indian players have contributed 19 out of their 40 goals this season which is the most among all teams in the league.
For ATK Mohun Bagan, Manvir Singh is the only Indian player to have scored more than one goal and Liston Colaco who was the top-scoring Indian last season is having a dry spell. Ashique Kuruniyan who was signed from Bengaluru FC is yet to score in the Hero ISL for the Mariners having appeared in all 12 matches this season.
Last season, the story was different. ATK Mohun Bagan had 19 goals scored by Indians while Mumbai City FC had 12 strikes scored by Indian players.
The Kolkata giants have never beaten Mumbai City FC in the Hero ISL and they would need to change this if they are to harbour hopes of winning the League Shield this season. It will be a task that no other team has managed this season and thus Mariners would need to put their best foot forward.
On an eight-match winning streak which is a record in the Hero ISL, ATK Mohun Bagan who have the second-best defensive record in the league may have what it takes to keep the Islanders’ scoring low, but they will have to find ways to score goals and in a game of fine margins would want some of their Indian forwards to step up to the plate and be counted.
It’s a defining game for ATK Mohun Bagan’s season as it will determine their targets for the remainder of the campaign. A win would put them right back in the mix for the top spot but any other result, especially a defeat would make them nervously look over their shoulder.
The pressure is on Juan Ferrando and his team and he needs his big players to make their presence felt on the pitch on Saturday.