Preview: Wounded East Bengal FC and Mumbai City FC draw battle lines
Both teams arrive in Kolkata looking to bounce back from recent defeats.
Mumbai City FC will face East Bengal FC at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24. Both teams head into this encounter after identical losses in their previous matches. The Islanders were handed a 3-2 defeat by Jamshedpur FC at home whereas the Red & Gold Brigade lost by a similar margin to NorthEast United FC in Guwahati on Saturday.
Placed fifth in the table after 12 games, Mumbai City FC and their hopes of defending the League Winners Shield haven't gotten off to the best of starts. Still, they aren’t too far behind the league leaders Odisha FC, who have bagged 31 points from 15 encounters. Nine points is a distance they can hope to bridge with a three-game advantage, but big departures coupled with a lack of recent form have not helped their cause.
The Red & Gold Brigade, on the other hand, have not really optimised the momentum they could have built after success in the Kalinga Super Cup. With just a point in two matches after that final, Carles Cuadrat knows he has work to do and secure the coveted playoffs qualification. The Islanders are arguably in a transition phase right now, and the Kolkata-based outfit could arguably not have come across a better chance to get one over the visitors.
What’s at stake?
East Bengal FC
For starters, East Bengal FC is unbeaten in their previous two league fixtures against Mumbai City FC. They have won and drawn once each out of those couple of matches, and will be looking to further that positive run of results in the coming game.
The team has a stomach for a fight, which reflected in them repeatedly trying to cut the deficit against the Highlanders last weekend. However, the backline wore a disoriented look that was capitalised upon Juan Pedro Benali’s side.
That needs to be addressed in the coming fixture, with Mumbai City FC and their track record of 20 goals in 12 matches showing that they can make hay against unorganised defences. Cuadrat has infused certain edginess in his players, as they are ever so eager to recover possession and commit to challenges.
The team has won 122 out of their attempted 162 tackles this season and their success rate of 75.3% is the highest amongst all teams in the competition, ensuring that the visitors won’t get a walk in the park in any phase of the forthcoming fixture.
Mumbai City FC
The Islanders were unbeaten in their first 10 matches of this season, but since then have been dealt with two defeats in their previous three games. The departure of head coach and multiple key stars midway through the season hasn’t done them any good either.
Amidst these concerns, Petr Kratky will be cognisant of looking after the team’s goal-scoring abilities. They have not found the back of the net in their last two consecutive away games. The last time the club endured a longer such stretch was of three games between November-December 2015.
Regardless of the recent form, their industriousness and tendency to look for breakthroughs inside the opposition’s box has never faced an issue in the current campaign. The team has been averaging 71 passes into the opposition’s final third in ISL 2023-24, which is the highest amongst all sides in the league.
Kratky will rely on his dynamic frontline to find solutions at a time when problems seem to be compounding for his team.
Rahul Bheke (Mumbai City FC)
The responsibility is on the Mumbai City FC captain to ensure a smooth sailing amidst the challenging times that the club is enduring at present. Rahul Bheke has been solid defensively, helping the side keep four clean sheets in 11 appearances, intercepting 12 times, making 16 tackles, and recording 28 clearances as well.
Bheke has been creative in his forward forays too, creating five goal-scoring opportunities and averaging 47 passes at an accuracy of 82% per game. East Bengal FC and their frontline pushed NorthEast United FC to the hilt in the previous match, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for the equaliser. Mumbai City FC should be up for a similar challenge, as they cannot bask upon any early advantage either and Bheke will be banked upon to take care of the backline in such a scenario.
Nandhakumar Sekar (East Bengal FC)
Nandhakumar Sekar is arguably finally having his season of reckoning, netting thrice and making three assists in his 12 league appearances so far. He has struck a fine balance between backtracking and doing his defensive duties, playing a role in the build-up and then actively finishing off offensive moves.
Nandha has created 12 goal-scoring opportunities so far. He has hit seven out of his 11 shots on target and averaged nearly 20 passes per game. The attacker is a livewire in the frontline, earning eight fouls and has developed a fine-tuning and understanding with the likes of Naorem Mahesh Singh and Cleiton Silva. His goal against the Highlanders oozed confidence and he would want to double upon that in the forthcoming fixture.
Played – 7
Mumbai City FC – 4
East Bengal FC – 1
Draws – 2
Trivia: Naorem Mahesh Singh is one appearance away from completing 50 matches for East Bengal FC in the ISL.
Nandhakumar Sekar (6.2cr)
Six goal contributions so far this season
Naorem Mahesh Singh (5.8cr)
Constantly in the lookout to make an impact upfront
Alberto Noguera (8.6cr)
Scored in the last match against Jamshedpur FC
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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.