Mumbai City FC will welcome East Bengal FC to the Mumbai Football Arena (MFA) to cap off the Saturday double header of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on December 16. Both these teams will look to build on their recent results, as the Islanders get back to their home turf for the first time since November 2 in the top-tier.

Mumbai City FC are unbeaten in the league so far, with four victories and three draws seeing them at a comfortable fourth spot in the standings. They beat Bengaluru FC by 4-0 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium last Friday, but followed it up with a goalless draw against FC Goa earlier this week. The Islanders are adjusting their strategic movements under Petr Kratky and obviously things will unfold in the way of the new head coach in its due course of time.

However, they will desire being more enterprising against the Carles Cuadrat-coached side. Mumbai City FC have a free-flowing frontline functioning at the top of their abilities currently. Kratky must arguably not look to disturb that and rather find a way where he can seamlessly synergise his ideas with the way the team is operating at the moment.

For East Bengal, a 5-0 win against NorthEast United FC was followed by a 0-0 result against Punjab FC. The Red & Gold Brigade are trained by one of the most seasoned tacticians in the league, and Cuadrat knows what it takes to succeed in this ground, having won the ISL final for Bengaluru FC the venue back in 2018-19.

Albeit with a different setup this time around, he has shown enough indications of what his men can do when they hit the right spots with their rhythm. Can they make a statement with a power-packed performance in the home of the incumbent League Winners Shield holders?

What’s at stake?

Mumbai City FC

The Islanders had gone to Goa with the hope of carrying on their momentum from Bengaluru, but they were arguably struck with an equally stern challenge by Manolo Marquez and his men. Neither of the two sides could find a breakthrough as the teams gave it their all, squeezing through every single opportunity or opening to get ahead in the proceedings. It must have made Kratky realise that the tussle for the top of the table spots is much tougher this time around.

Hence, clashes against lower-ranked teams, especially those at home, aren’t opportunities that they should look to settle for anything less than three points from.

The Islanders have to beat East Bengal FC to close the gap between them and the top-placed Gaurs, who are five points ahead (20) of Mumbai after playing a game extra (8) as compared to them. Coming on the back of consecutive clean sheets in their last two games, the Islanders know that they will make goal-scoring difficult for Cuadrat’s side. Cracking through the East Bengal FC defensive unit must make it light work for the home side to get three points from this contest.

Watch the Highlights from MCFC’s last match here:

East Bengal FC

The 5-0 performance against NorthEast United FC was the biggest win that East Bengal FC have ever recorded in their ISL history. The following match against a winless Punjab FC unit was the ideal opportunity for them to repeat those heroics to get three additional points, but this is where inconsistency came in to hurt them.

East Bengal FC needs to overcome challenges in order to set the ball rolling for what promises to be a fantastic season if they play their cards right. Powered by dynamic wingers and an efficient striker in Cleiton Silva, the Red & Gold Brigade have all the makings of a high-scoring team. They have netted 11 times in eight encounters and must be looking to add exponentially to that tally moving forward, starting from the game against Mumbai City FC.

If they bring out their natural gameplay without any conservative tweaks, then East Bengal FC can make this match a level-playing faceoff. They need to let go of any fears and clash against the Islanders heads on, which will then give rise to any result fitting to the performance of the two sides.

Watch the Highlights from EBFC’s last match here:

Key Players to Watch Out

Jorge Pereyra Diaz (Mumbai City FC)

Jorge Pereyra Diaz is perhaps the most critical aspect of the gameplay for Mumbai City FC for finishing off their well-constructed moves.

The Argentine striker has netted six times in seven appearances, in addition to creating five goal-scoring chances and winning an aerial duel per game. The forward has an uncanny ability to always get to the right spot at the right time.

Whether it’s to poach incoming deliveries inside the box or manoeuvring the opposition’s backline and taking his fellow forwards ahead with him, Diaz has excelled consistently in all necessary areas so far for Mumbai City FC.

He is a fan-favourite amongst the West Coast Brigade, and the 33-year-old will be eager to get back on their feet with his finesse to find the back of the net consistently.

From smart runs into the box, to shifting a bit wide to accommodate incoming midfielders, Diaz knows the drill and does it all with ruthless consistency. Saturday gives him a chance to further push his name for the coveted Golden Boot award as well.

Mandar Rao Dessai (East Bengal FC)

The former Mumbai City FC star returns to his previous home ground in the East Bengal FC colours in this game. Mandar had an eventful spell with the Islanders, winning the League Winners Shield twice and playing a host of roles in tandem with Vignesh Dakshinamurthy for Sergio Lobera and Des Buckingham.

Cuadrat values the experience that Mandar brings to the table, and the fullback has recorded seven tackles and clearances in addition to 11 clearances in eight matches this season.

He has also created six goal-scoring opportunities, recording a 78% passing accuracy and infusing an element to watch out for on the left flank. The 31-year-old has been a part of several champion units in the ISL, starting from his spell with FC Goa.

He relishes the big moment, an enticing opportunity, and he will be eyeing an impactful outing to make Mumbai City FC realise what they missed out on as they secured the big-ticket acquisition of Akash Mishra in the summer.

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Played – 6

Mumbai City FC – 4

East Bengal FC – 1

Draws – 1

Trivia: This is the first time Mumbai City have gone consecutive seasons without losing after their opening seven games of an ISL season (2023-24 & 2022-23 – P7 W4 D3).

Team Talk

“I am excited to see the fans in the stadium. Hopefully we will play good football and win. I didn’t see too much around the surroundings, because I have been meeting the players and the staff but I’m excited for tomorrow,” Mumbai City FC head coach Petr Kratky said in the pre-match press conference.

“Mumbai City FC are a very good team. They are the champions in a regular season, with a very good experience in the Champions League. Every single game they played in the Champions League, even though they didn’t get good results, was a learning across 90 minutes for all the players. They for sure have improved after so many games in that competition,” East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat said.

ISL Fantasy

Jorge Pereyra Diaz (8.9cr)

Six goals in seven games in ISL 2023-24

Akash Mishra (5cr)

Guarantees a determined defensive shift every single game

Nandhakumar Sekar (6.9cr)

Scored twice off the bench in the second half of the East Bengal FC vs NorthEast United FC match

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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.