ISL 2020-21: Mumbai City looks to reclaim top spot against inconsistent Bengaluru

ISL 2020-21: ATKMB edged Jamshedpur FC 1-0 on Sunday to go top of the table on 36 points. Mumbai, on 34, must win against Bengaluru in hand to reclaim pole position.

Sunil Chhetri will hope to inspire Bengaluru to a victory on Monday.   -  ISL MEDIA

Mumbai City FC will look to wrest back the initiative from ATK Mohun Bagan in the race for AFC Champions League qualification when it meets Bengaluru FC (BFC) at the Bambolim Stadium in the Indian Super League (ISL 2020-21)on Monday.

ATKMB edged Jamshedpur FC 1-0 on Sunday to go top of the table on 36 points. Mumbai, on 34, must win its game in hand to reclaim pole position.

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BFC may not exactly be that willing opponent, but is clutching at the straws, with its dreams of a playoff spot taking a severe beating after the crushing 2-0 defeat to ATKMB last Tuesday. Another reverse will in all probability dissipate whatever little hope is left.

Mumbai boss Sergio Lobera will however have to do without influential mid-fielder Hugo Boumous as he serves a two-match suspension for his fourth caution, and a direct red later for a run-in with the match officials, in the thrilling 3-3 draw against FC Goa last Monday. But Lobera was confident that his squad depth was adequate.

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“We played three games without Boumous and then two games without (Ahmed) Jahouh,” he said on match-eve.

“We work as a team. It is not about an individual. If I have a full squad then it is obviously good as we play many games in a short time. [But] I have a very good squad to get three points,” he added.

Mumbai may have already sealed a playoff berth, but its recent form has been shaky. Of the last four matches, it has won just one and conceded seven times. In the 12 games before that, Mumbai had conceded just four.

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It remains to be seen if BFC can take advantage. In the absence of an injured Cleiton Silva against ATKMB, the attack looked toothless. It could do with some inspiration from Sunil Chhetri, who is set to feature in his 200th match for BFC across competitions.

Interim coach Naushad Moosa will also hope that Xisco Hernandez, the club’s mid-season signing, is fit enough to start a game and rejuvenate an unadventurous midfield.

The defence will continue to suffer, with Rahul Bheke joining Juanan on the injury list. Pratik Chaudhuri will miss the clash after picking up his fourth yellow card. But Moosa chose to be upbeat. The backline could be boosted by the return of Ashique Kuruniyan, who has recovered after suffering a fracture to his face.

“In the past few days, the results are going in every team’s favour!” he said.

“It’s important to stay focused. Defence is a bit of concern, but we have been working on that. It is important to take a few things from the last game (against ATK Mohun Bagan). In the first 35 minutes, we were compact. We have to do that for the whole 90 minutes,” he added.