Mumbai, Bengaluru lock horns in top of the table encounter

Second-placed Mumbai City FC will play host to table toppers Bengaluru FC at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday. The match will be both teams' first match in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 after the month-long winter break.

The Islanders have never won against the Blues, losing two and drawing one of their three Hero ISL encounters.

Mumbai City FC

After a rocky start to the season, Jorge Costa's men embarked on a remarkable eight-match unbeaten streak to rapidly climb the table and currently sit pretty in the second place behind Bengaluru. Currently on 24 points from 12 matches, a win on Sunday will see the Islanders draw level on points with the Blues. Mumbai, however, have played a match more than Bengaluru.

Key to the Islanders' success this season has been their tight defence. During the course of their eight-match unbeaten streak, the Islanders' backline, marshalled by Lucian Goian and Subhasish Bose, have let in just four goals. Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh has also been in fine form. Shouvik Ghosh has moved to NorthEast during the winter transfer window, but the Islanders have managed to rope in Sanjay Balmuchu as a replacement. Costa maybe without the services of centre back Joyner Lourenco on Sunday’s match. The 27-year-old is reportedly nursing an injury.

After initially struggling to score goals, the Islanders' attack has also come into its own in their last few matches. Striker Modou Sougou put four past Kerala Blasters FC in the Islanders' last fixture before the break to become the first player to score four goals in a single match. With nine goals to his name, Sougou is a strong contender in this season's Golden Boot race.

Midfield maestro Paulo Machado's all-round performances and winger Arnold Issoko's pace down the wings have complimented Sougou's goal-poaching prowess up front perfectly. To recall, the Islanders held mighty Bengaluru to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium back in December despite playing with 10 men for most of the second-half. With their diverse arsenal up front and a rock-solid defence, Mumbai have the ability to bring Bengaluru's unbeaten season to an end on Sunday.

Here’s a look at Mumbai’s current season in numbers:

Bengaluru FC

Scintillating in most matches and pragmatic in the rest, Bengaluru have undoubtedly been the pick of the teams from the season so far. With eight wins and three draws in their 11 matches, the Blues are yet to face defeat this campaign. Carles Cuadrat's men boast the best defensive record in the Hero ISL 2018-19, having conceded just eight times so far. The centre back partnership between Juanan and Albert Serran has been the cornerstone of the Blues' iron-clad backline. Rahul Bheke, too, has been diligent in his defensive duties while also contributing heavily while going forward. Nishu Kumar is doubtful for the fixture because of the injury he picked up before the break.

The talismanic Sunil Chhetri is Bengaluru's top scorer this season with five goals and is expected to lead the line against Mumbai. However, it remains to be seen if the 34-year-old's strike partner Miku, who missed Bengaluru's last six matches due to an injury, will feature against Mumbai. The Venezuelan hitman's prolonged absence has been a big blow for Cuadrat, but some good performances by Udanta Singh and Chencho Gyeltshen have somewhat plugged the hole.

If Chhetri takes the field against his former team Mumbai, it would mark his 50th Hero ISL appearance. The ace striker will be eager to mark the occasion with a goal and considering his record against the Islanders, it would take a brave man to bet against him. Chhetri has netted three times in his three appearances against Mumbai.

Here’s a look at Bengaluru’s current season in numbers:

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:

Mumbai City FC: Amrinder Singh (GK), Sauvik Chakrabarti, Lucian Goian, Anwar Ali, Subhasish Bose, Arnold Issoko, Raynier Fernandes, Sehnaj Singh, Paulo Machado (C), Modou Sougou, Rafael Bastos

Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Rahul Bheke, Albert Serran, Juanan, Rino Anto, Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado, Harmanjot Khabra, Sunil Chhetri (C), Udanta Singh, Kean Lewis

DID YOU KNOW?

  • 13 of Bengaluru’s 18 goals have come in the last 15 mins of both halves combined this season.
  • Bengaluru FC are the only side this season to have scored in each of their matches.
  • With 6 clean sheets between Amrinder Singh (5) and Ravi Vijay Kumar (1), Mumbai City FC have kept the most number of clean sheets this season.

FANSPEAK

Which striker will have the biggest impact?

  • Modou Sougou
  • Sunil Chhetri

Have your say in the comments section below.

Catch the match live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV at 7.30 PM.

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