Mohun Bagan Super Giant (MBSG) faces a stiff challenge to retain its place at the top of the points table as they square off against Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Koch in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Wednesday.

A 3-1 win in the Kolkata Derby took the Mariners to the first place, but they are joint on points with Mumbai City FC in the second, with both teams tallying 36 points each currently. But, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, they have done that in a game fewer (17) than the Islanders (18).

As for Kerala Blasters FC, four losses in the last five games means that they have fallen below in the standings, placed fifth at the moment. They have 29 points from 17 games, and a victory here will take them to 32 in 18, still four behind the Mariners and Mumbai City FC.

It’s not easy to breach the bastion of Kochi though, with FC Goa having faltered when they squandered a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 here last month. The Mariners are in a phenomenal run of form, unbeaten under the watch of Antonio Lopez Habas, but, to overcome Kerala Blasters FC in their backyard will be no mean task.

What’s at stake?

Kerala Blasters FC

Kerala Blasters FC are on a fairly good run at home, scoring at least a goal in each of their previous nine matches in Kochi. They have won six times and drawn twice in this time period, losing only once.

Lately, some limitations in their squad have come out in the open though. For instance, there was certain over-reliance on Adrian Luna and Kwame Peprah, which has made them struggle to get going at full pace despite Dimitrios Diamantakos churning out day in, day out.

For instance, Kerala Blasters FC has scored the fewest goals (1) from crosses this season. Habas has based his success in the ISL on the foundation of absolute defensive solidity. He will be alert to plug any holes and prevent the Yellow Army from going about their business the usual way, and force them out of their comfort zone to secure goals in this encounter.

Mohun Bagan Super Giant

Mohun Bagan Super Giant has won five games and drawn twice in their ongoing seven-match-long unbeaten streak. This run was preceded by a losing streak of three matches, but the last time the Mariners went on a longer unbeaten stretch than the current one was of 13 games between February-December 2023.

The Mariners’ 36 points from 17 games, with 11 victories accompanied with three draws and defeats each, is their joint-highest tally (after 2020-21) after these many games played in any season of the ISL. Their 11 victories after the aforementioned count of matches is also the most wins they garnered after these count of games. 

Mohun Bagan Super Giant has averaged an expected goals (xG) value of 1.59 per game since the start of 2024, which is the highest of all teams in the competition. Their xG tally of 11.15 across seven games is the best since the resumption of the league campaign too. Their offensive contingent put on an absolute show in the crucial derby clash against East Bengal FC, and they will be eager to sustain that form in the final five league encounters as well.

Key Players to Watch Out

Vibin Mohanan (Kerala Blasters FC)

The Kerala Blasters FC midfielder has been donning an important responsibility at the centre of the park for head coach Ivan Vukomanovic. The 21-year-old has made 17 appearances this season with 35 passes per game at 81% accuracy. He has made five clearances, won six aerial duels, and made six interceptions, in addition to making 93 recoveries throughout this season.

He has won 53 duels, made 14 successful dribbles, made six key passes and also created six goal-scoring opportunities.

He has won back possession 9.5 times per game since the restart of the current ISL campaign, the highest such aggregate by any player in the competition in this span. Mohanan has won back possession 19 times in his two games in 2024.

Dimitrios Petratos (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

With three goals and two assists, Dimitrios Petratos is the joint highest goal contributor (5) in this fixture, along with former Mohun Bagan Super Giant player Roy Krishna.

Petratos can even equal Krishna as the leading scorer in this fixture with a strike in the coming match. He played a key role in all three goals that the Mariners scored in the derby. Petratos had netted eight times and assisted twice in 15 appearances this season.

He has recorded 48 touches in the opposition’s box, making seven successful dribbles, 30 key passes, and taking 20 shots on target. He has won 27 duels, made 48 recoveries, and notched a goal conversion rate of 20% so far this season.

Petratos has been a threat from both close quarters as well as from distance to the opposition, and he will thrive succeeding amidst an intense atmosphere in Kochi.

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Played – 7

Mohun Bagan Super Giant – 5

Kerala Blasters FC – 1

Draws – 1

Trivia: Dimitrios Diamantakos has a shooting accuracy of 72% and a shot conversion rate of 30.3% in the current ISL season.

Team Talk

“Injuries and all other issues, you have to deal with during the season without making excuses. We have tried to deal with all of them, overcome the situations and have a smile on our faces,” Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic remarked before the game. 

“I have to analyse the physical state of the players after the derby. We will also be travelling, so the team selection depends on a lot of factors,” Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonio Lopez Habas said in the pre-match press conference, suggesting that their playing XI could see some changes for this clash.

ISL Fantasy

Dimitrios Petratos (10.5cr)

Is the top-scoring player in ISL fantasy this week with 11 points

Jason Cummings (8.7cr)

Netted in the Kolkata Derby

Milos Drncic (3.8cr)

Has accumulated 49 ISL fantasy points so far

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