I-League: Defending champion Bengaluru takes on Mumbai FC

The clash between Bengaluru FC (BFC) and Mumbai FC assumes significance. The two have been quick off the blocks, recording two victories in as many matches.

BFC had eased past Shillong Lajong 3-0 in its opening I-League opener, before taking out newcomer Chennai City FC 2-0 here on Saturday. Mumbai FC, however, should pose a much stiffer challenge.   -  V Sreenivasa Murthy

Even though these are early days in the I-League campaign, Wednesday’s clash between Bengaluru FC (BFC) and Mumbai FC assumes significance. The two have been quick off the blocks, recording two victories in as many matches.

Mumbai FC coach, Santosh Kashyap, believes that a positive result here will go a long way in boosting his side’s title aspirations. “We are high on confidence, but we are up against the strongest opponent in I-League football. This is like a championship match for us,” Kashyap said here on Tuesday.

The visitor comes fresh off a dramatic 2-1 victory over Churchill Brothers on Sunday. It was a former BFC player, Karan Sawhney, who took Mumbai FC over the hump with an injury-time winner.

In Thoi Singh, another ex-BFC player, Mumbai FC boasts of a thoroughly reliable and hard-working midfielder. The pacy Victorino Fernandes, the key man in attack, poses a threat as well.

“I like attacking football, which is why Mumbai FC has signed me. You can see that in my I-league coaching career,” Kashyap, who took charge at the end of last season, said.

BFC had eased past Shillong Lajong 3-0 in its opening I-League opener, before taking out newcomer Chennai City FC 2-0 here on Saturday. Mumbai FC, however, should pose a much stiffer challenge.

Home team coach Albert Roca stated that his wards are ready for the battle. “Mumbai FC is mentally strong after their two wins. We are ready for a hard battle. They have enough talent to put us in trouble, and we are ready for that,” he said.

Roca recognised that Fernandes must be stopped from making free runs. “In Fernandes, Mumbai has a lot of speed up front. We have to ensure that he doesn’t get any long balls. We have to be focused, because any little mistake will give them the opportunity to launch a fast counter-attack. Our philosophy is to manage play from the back-line,” he said.

Cameron Watson, who missed BFC’s previous encounter due to a stomach bug, is expected to return to action.

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