Mumbai City FC readies to play hosts to Bengaluru FC at the Mumbai Football Arena (MFA) in the City of Dreams as the Matchweek 15 of Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season draws to an end on February 18, Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

After a brief series of setbacks, the Islanders bounced back into form with Spanish forward Iker Guarrotxena notching the winner for them away at East Bengal FC. The victory was a massive morale booster for the Petr Kratky-coached side, who had earlier squandered a 2-0 lead against the upbeat Jamshedpur FC at home.

Overcoming a transitional phase, the Islanders will be hoping that their latest acquisitions settle into the scheme of things as seamlessly as possible to avoid any further hiccups towards their title charge.

Up against them is a Bengaluru FC unit that has garnered a varied set of results since the resumption of the ISL campaign.

After a rather shock 3-1 to Punjab FC, they recovered to beat Chennaiyin FC by 1-0 before drawing 1-1 against the Red Miners. Head coach Gerard Zaragoza has had nearly two months with his team now and it is about time that his ideas, philosophies, and the changes that he has brought about in the setup begin reflecting consistently on field.

What’s at stake?

Mumbai City FC

The Islanders had rolled over the Blues by 4-0 when they last met at the Kanteerva in December, a result that led to the eventual dismissal of Simon Grayson from the helm of Bengaluru FC.

Now, the home team has a chance to record only their second league double against the Blues, after first doing it back in 2019-20. The aforementioned defeat to Jamshedpur FC meant that their impressive six-match-long unbeaten streak at home rounded off, and Kratky will be cautious to avoid successive losses at the MFA - a pattern that they had fallen prey to at around the same time (February-March) last year.

Guarrotxena repeatedly teased and troubled the East Bengal FC defence in the last game, and Mumbai City FC will take significant confidence from that game after losing key players in the frontline due to suspensions and departures to other clubs.

Regardless, there’s plenty of quality in their ranks to ride over mid-season troubles. Placed fifth in the table currently, two matches (13) and six points (25) separate them with league leaders Odisha FC (31 points in 15 matches). For all it’s worth, Mumbai City FC has a realistic shot at retaining the top spot and they can’t let momentum for the same desert them in the coming match.

Bengaluru FC

The Blues are on a worrisome run of form on the road in this campaign, having been winless in their previous eight away games. Further, their attacking unit isn’t really operating at its optimum potential yet, having netted merely once each in all of their last five games. In fact, this is their longest such streak in the history of the ISL.

In the current campaign, they have developed a tendency of consolidating their resources in the final stages of the match and arguably compromising their offensive potential for defensive solidity. For instance, they have conceded only 9% of their total goals in the last 15 minutes of their matches in ISL 2023-24, which is the lowest share amongst all teams.

However, they have scored merely twice in the final 15 minutes of their games - again, the least as compared to every other side that in the competition. In comparison, no team has scored more goals that Mumbai City FC (7) between minutes 75-90. Does that suggest that this fixture will go down the wire? Only time will tell.

Key Players to Watch Out

Alberto Noguera (Mumbai City FC)

The Spaniard brings sharpness to the Mumbai City FC midfield, adopting a more direct approach, whilst being constantly on the lookout for creating and converting goal-scoring opportunities. He has already netted and assisted once in two appearances this season, averaging 50 passes per game at an accuracy of 88%. Noguera has created two goal-scoring chances per 90 minutes and is playing the perfect foil to Lalengmawia Ralte at the centre of the park, connecting the midfield to the tip of the attack and setting the tempo for his team’s forward forays.

Suresh Singh Wangjam (Bengaluru FC)

Suresh Singh Wangjam was on target in the game against Jamshedpur FC, bagging his first goal of the current ISL season and only his second overall. Suresh averages 38 passes per match at an accuracy of 84% and has created eight goal-scoring opportunities.

He is a dynamite at the centre of the park, regularly pushing forward, getting into promising advanced positions and earning fouls to help the team capitalise upon set-piece opportunities. Suresh has earned 26 fouls in this campaign and his terrific goal in the previous match should instil greater belief in him to explore his potential to the fullest moving forward.

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Played - 15

Mumbai City FC - 7

Bengaluru FC - 7

Draws - 1

Trivia: Sunil Chhetri’s average of 4.2 touches inside the opposition’s box in ISL 2023-24 is the highest amongst all Indian players in the league.

Team Talk

“The boys really wanted to perform well against East Bengal FC. There was desire and a real heart in their performances. Now we just have to continue and do well in the next match,” Mumbai City FC head coach Petr Kratky quipped in the pre-match press conference.

“We had some good training periods this week. We analysed what Mumbai could do, where could we punish them, and we had a good week preparing for the game,” Bengaluru FC head coach Gerard Zaragoza mentioned ahead of the game.

ISL Fantasy

Rahul Bheke (3.9cr)

Defensive mainstay of the home team

Phurba Lachenpa (5cr)

Kept a clean sheet in the last game

Javi Hernandez (9.6cr)

Creative fulcrum of the Bengaluru FC side

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Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries.