The stage is set for a colossal clash between two giants of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) as ATK Mohun Bagan take on Mumbai City FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday. A win for the Islanders will extend the gap between them and Hyderabad FC to four points. On the other hand, the Mariners can move up into third place if they secure their first ever victory over Mumbai City FC.

This will be ATK Mohun Bagan’s first encounter in the New Year, as Juan Ferrando’s side were on a break during the last Matchweek after the Mariners ended 2022 on a high with a 2-1 win over FC Goa.

The two top scorers of the club, Dimitri Petratos and Hugo Boumous, found the back of the net against the Gaurs. In addition to that, ATK Mohun Bagan have strengthened their squad with the additions of midfielders Federico Gallego and Puitea.

Carl McHugh has been impressive in the Mariners midfield and has filled the void left by the injured Joni Kauko perfectly. When the two sides met earlier this season, McHugh scored in the 89th minute to rescue a point for ATK Mohun Bagan. (Club statistics)

“The plan for us is always the same. We try to keep the ball, play attacking football and get three points. Sometimes it works, other times, it does not. But our mentality is always the same,” said Ferrando. “The performance of Mumbai throughout the season so far has been very good. It is necessary for us to play against them on the same level that they are on,” he added.

Mumbai City FC are out to either create new records or extend the ones that are currently held by them. The Islanders started the New Year with a bang after a resounding 4-0 victory against Kerala Blasters FC last week.

The win was Mumbai City FC’s eighth win on the trot, which set a new record for the most consecutive wins in the Hero ISL. The Islanders seem the Invincibles this season with a new club record of an unbeaten streak of 13 games.

Head coach Des Buckingham will be without his top scorer Jorge Diaz - who bagged a brace and an assist last week - as the striker serves his suspension for accumulated yellow cards. Talisman Greg Stewart was taken off with an injury against the Blasters in the first half, but will likely operate as a striker, with Alberto Noguera coming into the midfield. (Club statistics)

“I’m happy with the way we have played so far this season. We have put ourselves in a good position, but the most important thing is that we have to keep getting better game-by-game,” said Buckingham. “As long as we keep trying to do that, I’ll be happy going into the next game. We have done as much as possible to prepare ourselves for this tough test against ATK Mohun Bagan. But it is one we are ready for and looking forward to,” he added.

The two sides have locked horns six times in Hero ISL history. The Islanders have won four games, while the other two have ended in draws. One of the draws came earlier this season when the Mariners held Mumbai City FC to a 2-2 draw at the Mumbai Football Arena. (Hero ISL standings)