Mumbai City FC and Chennaiyin FC will take on each other at the Mumbai Football Arena (MFA) to round off their runs in the first half of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 campaign on December 28, Thursday. Both these teams come into this match on the back of defeats in their respective previous encounters. The Islanders were dealt with a disappointing 2-0 loss by the Kerala Blasters FC in Kochi, whereas the Marina Machans went down to Punjab FC by 1-0 in New Delhi last week.

For Mumbai City FC, the result down south was their first defeat in the ISL this season. Two goalless draws and a loss to Kerala Blasters FC in their previous four encounters suggest that there’s ample room for improvement. Head Coach Kratky will be keen to sign off 2023 on a high, but that would mean overcoming a Chennaiyin FC unit that can be really dangerous on their day.

Owen Coyle has had a mixed bag of results with the club so far. Coyle has said repeatedly that they are looking at a long-term perspective at the moment. Their collective aim in this campaign appears to be to finish in the top-six and then bank on Coyle and his excellent game-management skills to go as deep into the competition as possible. Nothing could be a bigger boost to those ambitions than potentially defeating the Mumbai City FC in their own backyard.

What’s at stake?

Mumbai City FC

There is a lot of thinking that Kratky must have resorted to after the game in Kochi. Mumbai City FC was arguably swept aside from the game by the Kerala Blasters FC, and that perhaps signalled that the difference in quality amongst the higher ranked teams in the ISL is gradually bridging. Post some prominent departures aside from last season, they did solidify their squad in the summer and must be demanding more from themselves.

Chennaiyin FC is ideally the best opposition for them to get things back on track, as the Islanders have been unbeaten in their last six matches against the Marina Machans. However, the visitors pack a punch whenever they are in the City of Dreams; having beaten the Islanders thrice away from home in the ISL over the past 9 editions. The Marina Machans have conceded the joint-most goals in the ISL this season (19), along with Bengaluru FC and Hyderabad FC. The Islanders will be eyeing exploiting that, even as an opportunity to regain some of their goal-scoring rhythm that has faded away slightly since their clash against Bengaluru FC.

Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC is a team that likes to play on the front foot, but they need to be smarter with their defensive arrangement in this encounter. Mumbai City FC forwards operate at their best when they spot vacant spaces across the opposition’s backline. Coyle should ensure that his side does not shed their natural instincts but also be simultaneously wary of the threats that the Islanders can pose in certain phases of the game.

Coyle has a win percentage of 60% against Mumbai City FC in the ISL (P5 W3 D1 L1), which is his joint highest against any team (also Mohun Bagan Super Giant – P5 W3 L2). The tactician has in fact averaged two points per game against the Islanders in the competition, again the joint most alongside Hyderabad FC (P6 W3 D3). That coupled with Chennaiyin FC’s impressive record at the MFA should bring in confidence within the side to deliver an encouraging performance in the coming match.

Chennaiyin FC have to strike the perfect balance between their offensive endeavours and defensive duties in this fixture. They cannot forgo the opportunity of securing a point in search of a victory, and this is where Coyle’s game awareness will come into play. Their approach right from the offset of this match will be one to keep close tabs on.

Key Players

Lallianzuala Chhangte (Mumbai City FC)

Lallianzuala Chhangte’s outputs have taken a visible hit in the first-half of this campaign, having netted once and assisted twice in 10 matches thus far. Last season, Chhangte had scored 10 goals and secured six assists in 22 appearances, thus being crowned with the Golden Ball award. The number of minutes that he has been allowed on the field has dipped too. In 2022-23, Chhangte was averaging 84.31 minutes per game, whereas it has dropped to 59.6 minutes in this ISL season until now.

He returning to his optimal form will be essential for Mumbai City FC to fire from all cylinders. There is a small record that he must be hoping to claim as well, with Chhangte being one away from registering his 50th win in the ISL, and in doing so he will become the 19th Indian player to achieve the feat in competition history. He will be keen to make a mark against his former club, with whom he had finished runners-up in the 2019-20 campaign. That was perhaps the breakout year for Chhangte, netting seven times in 21 appearances, and he will be targeting an impactful outing against the Marina Machans on Tuesday.

Rafael Crivellaro (Chennaiyin FC)

The Brazilian attacking midfielder is the fulcrum around which the Chennaiyin FC attacking moves revolve. He connects their midfield to the frontline, demonstrating sublime skillsets inside the box to control the ball, playing precise passes to fellow forwards in key positions, slowing the game down and taking his time to make the right decisions at important junctures. Crivellaro has scored thrice and made five assists so far this season, recording a goal contribution every 112.65 minutes. He will be instrumental in helping the visitors unlock the Mumbai City FC defence, which has conceded only nine times in the league this season. Whether Chennaiyin FC sees adequate time on the ball and puts pressure back on the home team remains to be seen though.

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Played – 18

Mumbai City FC – 9

Chennaiyin FC – 6

Draws – 3

Trivia: 67% of Chennaiyin FC’s goals (10 out of 15) in the current ISL season have come in the first half of the games.

Team Talk

“We reflected and reviewed (the last game). There were a lot of positive things but also things that we need to improve on. We addressed that, worked on that. We stick to our processes. It’s a good experience for the group to understand that we can be defeated as well. But, we need to keep moving forward,” Mumbai City FC head coach Petr Kratky said in the pre-match press conference.

“Anytime you play any opponent, you mention about players missing for Mumbai, nobody has more players missing than Chennaiyin FC, with the injuries we have. It happens in football. The ones who are available, we have to do the best with them,” Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle remarked.

ISL Fantasy

Rafael Crivellaro (7.7cr)

Eight goal contributions in ISL 2023-24

Jorge Pereyra Diaz (8.7cr)

Six goals this season so far

Bipin Singh (7.4cr)

Scored and grabbed an assist in Mumbai City FC’s last win at home

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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 SD & HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam) & DD Bangla (Bengali). 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.