Mohun Bagan Super Giant will touchdown the City of Dreams to face Mumbai City FC at the Mumbai Football Arena (MFA) for their Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 fixture on December 20, Wednesday. The Mariners are unbeaten in the league thus far, facing a draw and securing six victories to get to 19 points in merely seven games. Disappointment in the AFC Cup and a host of injury concerns aside, they have been relentlessly consistent in the league, doing justice to the supreme talent and quality brimming through their squad.

A well-constructed roster has ensured that absences of key players are adequately addressed, and they will be aiming for a well-oiled, coordinated, and even impactful performance, staying true to their playing style, in the home turf of the defending ISL League Winners Shield winners. The Islanders are at 16 points in eight games, having not lost yet but must be aiming for more victories after four wins and draws each so far.

Petr Kratky has had an uneventful start to his tenure in the ISL, with goalless draws against FC Goa and East Bengal FC each. The latter might have hurt more, given that it came in his first game in-charge of the team at home. However, there is a certain phase that each team needs to overcome whilst making adjustments to the demands of a new tactician.

The Islanders have enough experience and talent in their lineup to learn from their mistakes and make quick amendments on the field, as was visible with their 4-0 humbling of Bengaluru FC without a head coach at helm earlier this month. This contest between two of the most power-packed squads in the ISL promises a cracker of a game.

What’s at stake?

Mumbai City FC

Kratky must be giving a deep thought to what has unfolded in the last 180 minutes for Mumbai City FC. Whilst the result at Goa was not unexpected, it is their inability to find the back of the net against the Red & Gold Brigade that must have raised eyebrows in the camp. Nevertheless, the Islanders don’t have time to sit back and overcomplicate the bygones. It is essential that they take to the ideas of the new tactician with utmost immediacy, as a clash against the Mariners will definitely test every single Islander on the field.

They have not lost to the Mohun Bagan Super Giant in their last seven games in the ISL, and a clean sheet in their previous three games is the second-longest such stretch of games that they have endured in the competition's history. It is not as if they have not been creating chances in the previous couple of encounters, but the clinical finesse has been lacking upfront, something that Jorge Pereyra Diaz, the leading goal-scorer (6) in the ISL 2023-24, must be hoping to take care of.

Kratky has also been shaking things up in the line-up a little bit, with midfielder Jayesh Rane being handed a start in the last game. The former Bengaluru FC star didn’t disappoint, taking two clear cut chances at goal that missed hitting the inside of the net by inches. Regardless of that, the home side has no option but to bring their A-game to the table on Wednesday evening.

Mohun Bagan Super Giant

The Mariners have begun their ISL campaign on as flawless a note as possible, rolling past teams both home and away. They have simply outclassed them in games, with the only side managing to push them to the hilt being Odisha FC with whom they played a 2-2 draw. Their tearaway forwards are capable of running circles around the opposition and their defence, with the defence being as resilient, tidy, and strong, as ever.

Mumbai City FC might have lost some steam in the previous two games, but the Mariners can ill-afford to take them lightly especially in front of the West Coast Brigade. The Mariners’ 19 points after seven matches is their highest-ever tally at this juncture of any season and they have been ruthless on the road, smashing 11 goals and conceding only four in their four away encounters in ISL 2023-24.

Juan Ferrando has ensured his team is equally capable of playing both pretty and efficient football, beating the teams in the middle of the park with their passing triangles and then giving it their all to recover the ball during aerial duels. Their 81.4% passing accuracy is the second-best in the league, only marginally behind the 81.5% of Mumbai City FC. They have won 60% of their aerial duels, the most by any side in the competition. This game promises to be an intensely competitive fixture by all means.

Key Players

Rahul Bheke (Mumbai City FC)

The defensive mainstay will hold the key in the coming game, after having quietly delivered impressive performances all season long. Rahul Bheke has played every minute of the campaign for the Islanders so far and has been solid defensively and industrious offensively. At the back, he has recorded 1.1 tackle, 1.2 interceptions, and 2.1 clearances per game on an average. Bheke has recorded an 81% passing accuracy, making 48 of them every 90 minutes.

He has also registered 10.1 entries in the final third per match, which is the highest for any Indian player to have played a minimum of three games this season. Bheke and his constant tendency to push higher up the field from the right flank helps the Islanders explore goal-scoring opportunities from wider areas of the field. Bheke will be integral to weather the storm set to be unleashed by the Mariners’ forwards, and it will be fascinating to see if he helps the home side cope better with the same.

Hugo Boumous (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

The former Mumbai City FC star returns to the Mumbai Football Arena, albeit in different colours, and tensions will be high as he strives hard to make an impact in the proceedings on Wednesday. Boumous has history with the Islanders, playing a critical role in helping them to the league double under the tutelage of Sergio Lobera in 2020-21.

However, he left to join the Mariners after merely a year-long stint with the Islanders, and lifted the ISL trophy with them last season. With 30 goals and 32 assists in 100 matches, Boumous has been one of the most impressive and impactful foreign imports in the ISL over the years, first playing in the competition in the 2017-18 season with FC Goa. He has scored once across 272 minutes in this campaign, and will be eyeing a goal contribution more than anything else to prove a point against his former employers in their own backyard. 

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Played – 7

Mumbai City FC – 5

Mohun Bagan Super Giant – 0

Draws – 2

Team Talk

“Mohun Bagan are one of the top teams. We are excited to play them. It’s an event that we are waiting for because it’s a celebration of football. Our way will not change. We will defend properly, but we will work on the way in which we can score more goals and create more goal-scoring opportunities,” Mumbai City FC head coach Petr Kratky said in the pre-match press conference.

“I think every match is different. In the last match (against East Bengal FC), it is true that they drew but they had a lot of opportunities and missed so many clear chances. This is the truth. In this case, I’m thinking about their team and my plan. Mumbai are a strong team at home and it’s difficult to play away,” Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Juan Ferrando said in the pre-match press conference.

ISL Fantasy

Subhasish Bose (5.3cr)

Scored a goal in addition to delivering impressive defensive output in the last game

Liston Colaco (6.4cr)

Livewire on the field always on the lookout of goal-scoring chances

Jorge Pereyra Diaz (8.8cr)

Six goals in eight league appearances for the Argentine striker this season

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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.