Match 44 Preview: Kerala Blasters look to continue winning momentum against high-flying Mumbai City
Mumbai City FC take on Kerala Blasters FC in the first Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) match of 2021 at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Saturday. The Islanders stand a chance of reclaiming their place at the top of the league table but they face a tough challenge against a rejuvenated Kerala side that registered their win of the season in their last match against Hyderabad FC.
The Islanders are one of the most balanced teams in Hero ISL 2020-21. Sergio Lobera’s side are unbeaten in their last six matches, scoring in all of them (11 in all) and keeping four clean sheets to boot. So far Mumbai have conceded the joint least number of goals (3). In further encouragement, Lobera has a strong record against Kerala Blasters. During his time at FC Goa, the Spaniard was unbeaten against them, winning five matches and drawing one.
Although the Blasters’ record against Mumbai of late is not appealing either having not even won once in their last four games against them, they showed a massive improvement in the match against Hyderabad as goals from Abdul Hakku and Jordan Murray sank Owen Coyle’s men.
Against the likes of striker Adam le Fondre and the speedy wingers of Mumbai, it will be interesting to see if Kerala go in with an all-Indian backline again. Costa Nhamoinesu and Bakary Kone missed their last game through injury and Hakku and Sandeep Singh gave a good account of themselves in their absence. Kerala didn’t miss another injured player Gary Hooper either and looked like a different side altogether.
“We will play with the team that we think is going to be the best. Both Sandeep and Hakku played well. They are training well with more confidence. Costa, Hooper and Kone are training. We will play with our best possible line-up which you'll know only by tomorrow. Everyone wants to play. Every day we are thinking about the best team to play. Yes, we made five changes [in the last match] and the team performed well, we won. The players who came in want to stay in the team and continue playing,” Kerala head coach Kibu Vicuna said ahead of the game.
Their combination worked well against Hyderabad but the in-form Bipin Singh will be a cause of concern for the Kerala defence. Bipin has three assists to his name this season and has also created 13 chances for the Islanders. Coupled with the goal-scoring abilities of Bartholomew Ogbeche and le Fondre, the Islanders will hope to continue their goal-scoring form this season. However, they will have to be careful against Kerala: Vicuna’s men may not have done very well in terms of outright results but they have looked good on the pitch.
"I'm only thinking about Kerala Blasters. We need to put our focus on the next game and thinking about the next three games is not good for us because our next game is going to be difficult against a very good team with a good coach. They have very good players and try to play in a similar style like us,” Lobera said ahead of the game when queried about the team’s future opponents after Kerala.
Kerala Blasters FC
Goalkeepers: Albino Gomes, Bilal Husain Khan, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Muheet Khan.
Defenders: Costa Nhamoinesu, Nishu Kumar, Bakary Kone, Jessel Carneiro, Sandeep Singh, Abdul Hakku, Lalruatthara
Midfielders: Sergio Cidoncha, Sahal Abdul Samad, Vicente Gomez, Seityasen Singh, Rahul KP, Givson Singh, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Yondrembem Denechandra, Nongdamba Naorem, Arjun Jayaraj, Ayush Adhikari, Jeakson Singh, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Ritwik Das, Rohit Kumar
Forwards: Gary Hooper, Jordan Murray, Facundo Pereyra, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Shaiborlang Kharpan.
Mumbai City FC
Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Nishit Shetty, Vikram Singh, Phurba Lachenpa
Defenders: Amey Ranawade, Valpuia, Mourtada Fall, Mehtab Singh, Mandar Rao Dessai, Tondonba Singh, Mohamad Rakip, Sarthak Golui
Midfielders: Ahmed Jahouh, Bidyananda Singh, Bipin Singh, Hernan Santana, Raynier Fernandes, Rowllin Borges, Sourav Das, Hugo Boumous, Cy Goddard, Asif Khan, Farukh Choudhary, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy, Vikram Partap Singh, Pranjal Bhumij
Forwards: Adam Le Fondre, Bartholomew Ogbeche
Live Broadcast Schedule:
Hero ISL 2020-21 Match 44: Kerala Blasters FC vs Mumbai City FC
Date: January 2 (Saturday)
Time: 7:30 PM onwards
Channels: Star Sports Network
Streaming: Disney+ Hotstar and Jio TV