ISL: Mumbai City hosts Chennaiyin FC in must-win game

Victory for fourth-placed Mumbai City FC, coached by Jorge Costa, will keep seal its spot in the play-offs while Chennaiyin FC can stay alive with a draw.

Strike force: Mumbai City will hope that Amine Chermiti, right, has more celebratory moments as it chases a victory against Chennaiyin.   -  H. Vibhu

The one match in hand for Chennaiyin FC, before its ISL season six campaign comes to a close, may calm nerves in the visitor’s dugout and improve its performance against Mumbai City FC at the Mumbai Football Arena here on Friday night. The home side, meanwhile, faces a win-at-all-costs situation in its concluding league game.

Victory for fourth-placed MCFC, coached by Jorge Costa, will keep it in the reckoning for the league play-offs. Chennaiyin, in fifth place heading into its penultimate tie, won’t mind a draw in a tough away match. The visitor travels to Guwahati next to face NorthEastUnited FC and a win there will be enough to seal a berth in the play-offs.

Multiple options

MCFC is at full strength for this crucial game, giving Costa multiple options. The blues attack has forwards Modou Sougou of Senegal and Amine Chermiti of Tunisia as focal points. Diego Carlos, Mohammed Larbi, Bidyananda Singh, and Rowlin Borges also possess goal-scoring skills.

CFC will have to work over-time to keep MCFC’s marauders in check. If the visitor’s defensive formation under coach Owen Coyle can handle the heat, the contest to control the ball will be engrossing in midfield, where CFC looks better equipped.

Potent threat

Lithuanian forward Nerijus Valskis — 13 goals, four assists and 41 shots on goal in 16 leagues appearances in his debut season for CFC — remains a threat to any opponent, especially MCFC whose backline has a tendency to switch off. With captain Amrinder Singh in goal, the blues have let in the most goals among the first four squads — 28 against 25 scored.

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Replying to a query about no players ruled out due to card suspensions, Costa observed: “We still have some injuries, it will go on till the end of the season. It feels good to have more options for the last game of the season, the most important match for us. This is one game we want to win, we need to win.”

CFC coach Coyle, said: “in terms of fighting for our lives, we have been doing that for three months, since I came to the club. Everybody thought we had no chance, we have been under pressure to win the last 10 games.” The visitor won the five of its last six games, drew one and is on a hot streak.

Sougou confident of Mumbai's chances

Mumbai Modou Sougou dubbed the game against Chennaiyin as a final for his side and expressed confidence of making the playoffs.

“It is a final for us. This is the most important game for us in the season, it is all or nothing. We either kill Chennaiyin or get killed. It is a very crucial game for us.

I’m confident we will come out on top,” Sougou was quoted as saying in a release issued by Mumbai City FC.

Talking about how it would defend against a free-scoring Chennaiyin, he said, “We need to win this game and Chennaiyin need to win it as well, both the teams are under pressure.”

“We have one choice - three points, nothing less or nothing more. They are a very different side right now from the last time we played against them, we know that and we are confident we can restrict them and qualify,” he said.

“We are ahead of them in the points table, which shows we have quality too,” added the star striker, who has three goals this season.

Goian confident of positive reception

Luican Goian, the Chennaiyin FC defender, does not expect a hostile reception from fans of Mumbai City FC. “I have been getting positive messages from fans here, they know what I have done for the team when I was playing here. I will like to continue my work of making sure my team (Chennaiyin FC) wins our last league match, so that we can go home smiling”

Former Mumbai City teammate, Modou Sougou, also reacted: “I hope the fans receive him in a nice way and sure he will be happy to come back playing to Mumbai. I’m hoping he won’t be too happy when returning back to Chennai,” said the strike, adding: “It will be a special night for him, he did well here in the last three seasons but life goes on. The players move on but the club remains.”

Goian represented MCFC for three seasons before switching to CFC last season.


(With inputs from PTI)

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