Mumbai City faces a tricky opponent in Pune City

Goalkeeper Vishal Kaith, replacing Kamaljit Singh from the side which steamrollered MCFC in the previous game, is the frontrunner for Golden Gloves award, with five clean sheets in 11 matches played. 

A file photo of FC Pune City players during a training session.   -  ISL Media

Facing FC Pune City in sunlight at the Mumbai Football Arena is not the only adjustment Mumbai City FC needs to make during their Indian Super League season-4 evening game. 

By the time the venue glows under floodlights in the second half, the latter may realise that the visitors in orange-and-purple is tricky to handle due to sharp defence, aggressive midfield and versatile forwardline.

Goalkeeper Vishal Kaith, replacing Kamaljit Singh from the side which steamrollered MCFC in the previous game, is the frontrunner for Golden Gloves award, with five clean sheets in 11 matches played. 

Ranko Popovic’s first-choice custodian let in only nine goals and appears solid in the air and decisive at shots from close, inspiring defenders ahead to be proactive.

Emilano Alfaro from Uruguay, whose brace of goals had inspired a come-from-behind victory earlier, increased the tally to seven and continues to give opponents the slip.

Read: This ISL season has been a challenging one, says Balwant Singh

Fellow-striker Marcelino (seven goals and seven assists) is deadlier on the wing setting up goals after coach Ranko Popovic gave the captain from Brazil more space on the flank to work his magic.

MCFC defenders’ focus on these two tearaway forwards encourages teammates behind to step into the goalmouth and finish moves via tap-ins and flying headers. 

Midfielder Adil Khan (four goals, two 'best player' awards) has become an expert in slipping unnoticed into position to despatch home crosses. Mohammed Ashique’s understanding with the two goal-getters is proving effective.

Each one doing his part propped up Popovic’s squad to second place and it is on course to booking a knockout berth. 

Coached by Alexandre Guimaraes for a second consecutive season, MCFC is struggling. Balwant Singh’s goals have dried up despite increasing workload, the midfield is subdued and unable to use playmaker Achille Emana’s quality passes.

Guimaraes said: “When you have the chances, you have to convert. We are playing against a team that is coming closer to their objective of making it to the top-four. They will try to put pressure on us, but we are ready.” 

The team lost three home games in a row, so winning at MFA is the bare minimum required for an outside chance to qualify in the remaining five games.

MCFC is in seventh place after 13 ties. FCPC won 2-1 the last time these two Maharashtra teams clashed. The visitors have 25 points from 14 ties.

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