The Islanders, Mumbai City FC will be up against the Men of Steel, Jamshedpur FC in the winner-takes-all one-legged playoff, which will decide who gets to represent India in the most prestigious footballing club competition in the continent – the AFC Champions League. The two teams will take to the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, Kerala on 4th April, Tuesday for the grand showdown.
While it is not uncommon for the Champions League to have its own qualifiers, this playoff is being held without any AFC supervision. This is due to the change in the calendar of the continental competition which will now look to follow its European counterparts, allowing clubs from across Asia to compete during their normal league campaign. An entire edition of the competition was scrapped to accommodate this change.
Since the 2019/20 season of the Indian Super League, the league winners have been granted a direct slot in the AFCCL group stages. This change in schedule has resulted in two competitors for one spot – 2021/22 ISL League winners Jamshedpur FC and the 2022/23 ISL League winners Mumbai City FC. This dilemma will be dissolved in this playoff on Tuesday.
Mumbai City’s last game was against Bengaluru FC in the ISL playoffs which they lost on penalties. This was after they broke many records on their way to an unprecedented 46-points season in the league stage. The loss to the Blues on penalties has definitely left a bad taste in the mouth for Des Buckingham’s men, which will motivate them to replicate their form from earlier this season.
Jamshedpur FC, on the other hand, have had a rather torrid season. They lost both their coach, the enigmatic Owen Coyle, and their best player, fellow Scotsman Greg Stewart (to their Tuesday Testers) ahead of their ISL campaign. They finished 10th on the table, above woeful NorthEast United under new manager Aidy Boothroyd. The former Watford boss has kept his job for the playoff, but the scrutiny will intensify if his side loses.
Mumbai had 5 Indians on duty for the national team in the Tri-Nation Cup – Lallinzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh, Phurba Lachenpa, Mehtab Singh, and Rahul Bheke. Jamshedpur’s Ritwik Das was also a part of Igor Stimac’s squad for the tournament. It is uncertain how involved they will be in the proceedings.
Mumbai City FC vs Jamshedpur FC Head-to-Head
The two sides have met on 12 different occasions. Jamshedpur have won more games – 5 to Mumbai’s 4. Three encounters have ended in draws. The last game ended in a 2-1 victory for the Islanders, with late goals from Chhangte and Vikram Pratap Singh canceling out the Boris Singh opener. This will be the first time that they meet outside the Indian Super League.
Mumbai City FC – Phurba Lachenpa (GK), Mourtada Fall (C), Mehtab Singh, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy, Rahul Bheke, Apuia, Ahmed Jahouh, Greg Stewart, Bipin Singh, Lallinzuala Chhangte, Jorge Pereyra Diaz.
Jamshedpur FC – TP Rehenesh (GK), Ricky Lallawmawma, Eli Sabia, Pratik Chaudhari, Laldinliana Renthlei, Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Jitendra Singh, Ritwik Das, Boris Singh, Harry Sawyer, Daniel Chima.
Mumbai City is tipped to dominate the game owing to their heroics in the ISL league stage. It will take a mammoth effort from the Red Miners to turn the game in their favor. Long phases of the game will be spent in a low block for JFC, but with the likes of Boris, Ritwik, Jay, and Chima, the team is well-equipped for attacking in transitions that can catch Mumbai off-guard. It has been a while since both sides have seen competitive action, and this might aid the men from the Furnace. Regardless, it is Mumbai’s game to lose.
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