Match 62 preview: Semi-final spot on the line - Kerala Blasters FC, Mumbai City FC face off in virtual knockout
A match in a Hero Indian Super League (ISL) league phase can't by nature have anything more than three points at stake but when Kerala Blasters FC take on Mumbai City FC at the Tilak Maidan stadium in Vasco, Goa on Wednesday, there will be a lot more riding on it.
On paper, there will be just another three points on offer, but these three points could go on to make the rest of the points the teams have gathered during the season count for something.
A place and a point separates Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters FC in the Hero ISL charts going into a game which is the penultimate one of their respective league stage campaigns.
The equation is simple. A win for Mumbai City FC would guarantee them a place in the semi-finals. It would also take ATK Mohun Bagan into the semi-finals.
A draw would mean ATK Mohun Bagan would advance without needing to collect any further points in their remaining matches but the battle for the fourth spot between Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters FC would go down to the last round of matches.
A win for Kerala Blasters FC though would keep it all open. It would put Ivan Vukomanovic’s side in the driver’s seat to claim a semi-final spot ahead of Mumbai City FC, but the Islanders won’t be out of it and would have a chance to sneak in on the last day if other results go their way. ATK Mohun Bagan would also need to get positive results in their respective matches.
Kerala Blasters FC: LWDLW
Vukomanovic’s team come into this game in a bit of a stuttering form. They have won just two of their last five matches, having also lost twice during this period. They have scored seven and conceded exactly the same amount of goals in their last five matches. So, they have conceded 36% of their total goals this season in the last five matches.
Mumbai City FC: WWLWW
Des Buckingham’s team are in fine form ahead of this crunch match, winning four out of their last five matches. Even though the performances have been far from their free-flowing ones at the start of the season, the Islanders have looked solid as they have kept three clean sheets in their last five outings and have conceded just four goals. They have scored nine goals in the process.
The two teams have met on 15 occasions with Mumbai City FC emerging victorious six times. There have been an equal number of draws in this fixture with Kerala Blasters FC recording three victories. The Blasters beat Mumbai City FC 3-0 in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
Mumbai City FC may be able to welcome back midfielder Ahmed Jahouh for the match after he trained with the team on Monday and is also expected to join the training group on Tuesday. However, he will be assessed closer to the match.
Kerala Blasters FC meanwhile are hoping to have Nishu Kumar and Jeakson Singh available and a call about their inclusion will be taken on the day of the match.
Kerala Blasters FC
Jorge Diaz: Diaz scored a brace in Kerala Blasters’ 3-0 win over Chennaiyin FC, taking his tally for the season to six goals. He has now scored three goals in his last four matches after failing to score a goal in the five matches before that. 14 of his touches came in the opposition's box. This was a record for most opposition box touches in a match for a Kerala Blasters player in Hero ISL 2021-22. Against a defensively solid Mumbai City FC, he will be crucial to the Blasters’ chances.
Prabhsukhan Singh Gill: With Mumbai City FC not conceding many goals lately, the pressure will be on the Blasters to keep the back door shut. Gill has been one of the best performing players in goal this season and will be key to the Blasters’ chances. He will also be looking to stay ahead of Mumbai City FC’s Mohammad Nawaz in the golden glove race which could be an added motivation.
Mumbai City FC
Igor Angulo: Mumbai City FC’s top goalscorer, Angulo was brought in by the club to make the difference in crucial matches like these. The striker is in good form coming into the game and will be looking to profit from Kerala Blasters FC’s recent vulnerability at the back.
Mehtab Singh: The Islanders centre-back has been in fine form in recent matches and also scored against FC Goa in the last match. His partnership with Mourtada Fall would need to deliver again if Mumbai City FC are to get the better of Kerala Blasters FC.
Islanders nearing milestone
The Islanders need to score 4 goals to reach 200 Hero ISL goals. They are the third highest scoring team in the history of Hero ISL with 196 goals behind FCG (263) and CFC (199).
First goal is crucial
Both Kerala Blasters FC and Mumbai City FC are winless in games where they conceded the first goal this season.
Match timings and telecast details
Match: Kerala Blasters FC vs Mumbai City FC
Date: March 2, 2022
Venue: Tilak Maidan stadium, Vasco da Gama, Goa
Kick-off time: 7.30 pm IST
Telecast: Star Sports Network
Online Streaming: Disney+Hotstar and JioTV.