ISL: Mumbai City faces Bengaluru in top-of-the-table clash

Mumbai City FC can displace Bengaluru FC at the top of ISL with a win on Sunday.

The reverse fixture ended in a 1-1 draw between these teams.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Mumbai City FC awaits a tough challenge from the unbeaten Bengaluru FC on Sunday, with both teams resuming their ISL campaigns after over a month-long break due to the AFC Asian Cup.

Currently first and second on the table, with 27 and 24 points respectively, Bengaluru and Mumbai are on course to reach the playoffs and a win will only bolster their chances.

Mumbai, which is yet to win the title, has been in good form this season under its new coach Jorge Costa, winning its last fixture 6-1 on December 16 against Kerala Blasters.

Modou Sougou, who has scored nine goals, has been Mumbai City's biggest asset so far. He scored four goals against the Blasters and will be keen to continue from where he left off.

The Senegalese, along with Arnold Issako of Congo, who has five assists to his credit, form a lethal pair who can cause problems to any defence.

Mumbai also possesses fine strikers like Brazilian Rafael Bastos and an array of midfielders Sougou, Raynier Fernandes, Portugal’s Paulo Machado and Matias Mirabaje in addition to Sougou.

Coach Costa was pleased that the ISL had a winter break and is raring to kick-start their campaign again.

“I am used to having the break and I like it. It was nice to spend some time thinking about our games. It was good for the players to get some rest physically and mentally. I know we were on a good run, but I think the players and I took some rest and spent time with our families,” said the Portuguese coach.

On the other hand, Bengaluru will pin its hopes on star striker Sunil Chhetri, who has so far netted five goals in the season and will take the field for the first time after being announced as the recipient of the coveted Padma Shri.

The Blues has been unbeaten in 11 matches and would look to extend that run.

“It’s nice to have this unbeaten run going, but the key aim is to book a place in the play-off stages as soon as we can. Whether the long break will affect our momentum or not, only time will tell. But we have been working hard and hope to keep the run going for as long as we can,” said Bengaluru coach Carles Cuadrat.