Talking Point: Can Mumbai City record a first in Hero ISL history?

Mumbai City FC take on NorthEast United FC in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Saturday. The Islanders lost their only match of the campaign against NorthEast in both sides’ season opener and Sergio Lobera’s men will back themselves to avoid a repeat. The Highlanders, meanwhile, will take a lot of confidence into the clash against Mumbai City after victories in their last two matches. Here, we assess some of the factors that may decide which side emerges triumphant when the teams square off on Saturday.

Mumbai City could create history 

If getting three points wasn’t motivation enough, Mumbai City’s players will have the added incentive of creating a new Hero ISL record when they face NorthEast. Unbeaten in 12 games, a win or a draw will see the Islanders creating a record for most unbeaten games in a row. However, they will be wary against a Highlanders side that has already beaten them once this season. Mumbai City’s possession-based style of play can work in NorthEast’s favour considering the Highlanders like to hit opposition teams on the counter-attack. NorthEast, in fact, have an average possession of 43% in Hero ISL 2020-21 and are capable of beating the best of teams on their day as demonstrated in their season opener as well as in their last outing against ATK Mohun Bagan.

Gallego and Machado are NorthEast’s key players

NorthEast have enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in their last few games. They are unbeaten in their previous three outings and have won two of those, including a victory over second-placed ATK Mohun Bagan in their last match. Key to the revival of their fortunes has been the form of Federico Gallego and Luis Machado. Gallego seems to be getting back to his best and provided an assist besides also scoring in their win over the Mariners. The Uruguayan playmaker, in fact, has provided four assists and scored twice in NorthEast’s last four games. He along with Machado, who has scored four goals this season, are the Highlanders’ biggest threats.

Bartholomew Ogbeche could haunt his former team

Bartholomew Ogbeche seems to be hitting top form for Mumbai City as we enter the second half of the season. The former NorthEast man could come back to haunt his former employers on Saturday if his recent form in front of goal is anything to go by. On the scoresheet during the Islanders’ draw against Chennaiyin in their last game, Ogbeche has scored thrice in Mumbai City’s last five games after netting twice in their first eight. His goal against Chennaiyin FC took him to 32 goals in the Hero ISL and placed him among the all-time top three scorers in the league behind Ferran Corominas and Sunil Chhetri. He will back himself to score more goals and must be marked tightly by NorthEast.

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