Phew! What a season it has been! The biggest ISL season has also been the best and going into the final matchday, the plot only thickens. While we find out who joins ATK Mohun Bagan, Mumbai City FC and NorthEast United in the playoffs after the afternoon game between FC Goa and Hyderabad, the final game of the league stage between the Mariners and the Islanders decide who gets to go to join the Asian footballing elites in the AFC Champions League.
ATK Mohun Bagan is unbeaten in their last 6 league game, winning 5 of them before dropping points in a 2-2 stalemate against Hyderabad FC in their last game. The equation is pretty simple for the Mariners going into the last game, a win or a draw and they get to take home the League Winners shield and a place in the group stages of the AFC Champions League. Lose, and all that fizzles away. It has been a memorable maiden season for the Kolkata giants in the Indian Super League and will they be able to finish it off in style will hinge on their defence. The Mariners defensive unit has been exemplary this season letting in the least amount of goals in the league but they were poor in the last game against Hyderabad, possibly because of a bit of complacency seeping. They will need to be on the top of their craft against a formidable Mumbai attack that will punish any relapse in concentration.
Mumbai City seemed to have trouble dealing with life without Boumous. With the Frenchman suspended after their thrilling 3-3 draw with FC Goa, Mumbai lost to Bengaluru and Jamshedpur in their next two matches. The League Shield and a place in the AFC Champions League looked almost certain but a string of bad results where they were able to pick up only a point from a possible 9, saw them concede first place to ATK Mohun Bagan. Mumbai needed 3 points against Odisha to keep their hopes alive and they showed up to the party, scoring 6 past the Juggernauts, Bipin Singh grabbing a hattrick while Ogbeche got a brace, without Boumous. Sergio Lobera will be asking his boys for more of the same against ATK Mohun Bagan where they know a win will get them back what they have lost.
3 Indian Players to watch out for
Manvir Singh’s first season with the Mariners has been fruitful, to say the least. Manvir who is contractually bound with the Mariners for three seasons has justified the investment the club had doled out for him. The young man has found the net 5 times this season and has registered 3 assists too. Manvir has got Indian football fans excited with his performances this season and what will be a better place to shine than what is possibly going to be a huge game under the lights at Bambolim.
What could be a game between Mohun Bagan’s defence and Mumbai City’s attack, Sandesh Jhingan could possibly be the trump card up Habas’ sleeve. The Mariners defence didn’t have a great game against the Nizams and Jhingan who has been a solid and claiming influence in defence will need to be on top of his game along with his defensive partner Tiri if they are to contain the likes of Le Fondre and Ogbeche.
Bipin Singh was on 7th heaven as Mumbai scored 6 past Odisha in their last game and he grabbed 3 of them. Bipin is likely to be part of an attacking trio consisting of him, Ogbeche and Le Fondre and what is a must-win game for the Islanders. Bipin has bagged 5 goals this season and also contributed with 4 assists for his side who have scored the most number of goals in the league this season. Bipin who formerly plied his trade in Kolkata will be looking to spoil the party for the outfit from the City of Joy.
3 Foreign Players to watch out for
Bartholomew Ogbeche has been a potent goal scorer in the ISL, with 27 goals scored in the league before the start of this season. While hasn’t been his prolific self in front of the goal this season, the Nigeria born French citizen has still managed to score 7 goals this season and has also got himself a couple of assists. Ogbeche scored the winner in the reverse fixture and was among the goals in Mumbai’s last game where he managed a brace. Mumbai City faithfuls will hope he brings his scoring boots to Bambolim too.
You need to score goals to win games and in what is a must-win game for the Islanders, all eyes will be on Adam Le Fondre. Lobera will be banking on his highest goal scorer this season to bring the goods against a side that are very solid defensively. Le Fondre has scored 11 goals this season and will be looking to add to his tally and propel his side towards a winning cause. The striking partnership between him and Ogbeche will hold the keys to Mumbai’s success in the absence of Boumous.
Roy Krishna just loves scoring goals. Krishna has literally attained saviour status in the hearts of the Mariners as he bailed ATK Mohun Bagan out on numerous occasion during the season with his goals. Krishna could be the answer to the threat that Ogbeche and Le Fondre poses on the Mariners defence as Mumbai will have to wary of the Fijians goal-scoring prowess and creating magic out of nothing. The threat of Krishna and Manvir hitting Mumbai on the counter could very well help the Mariners in containing Mumbai’s attacks turning into crusades.
Team News and Injuries
There aren’t new injuries that have bugged these two sides but bot of them will miss players due to suspensions. Both sides will be missing out on their left-backs as both Vignesh and Subhasish have accumulated 4 yellow cards and will miss this nail bitting encounter. The most high profile absentee from this mammoth encounter will be Hugo Boumous whose initial 2 match ban has been increased to a 4 match ban forcing Mumbai to play their last 4 league matches without their talismanic Frenchman whose absence in such a huge game could hurt them.
Mumbai City FC (4-2-3-1): Amrinder Singh (GK), Mandar Rao Desai, Hernan, Mourtada Fall, Amey Ranawade, Ahmed Jahouh, Raynier Fernandes, Bipin Singh, Adam Le Fondre, Jackichand Singh, Bartholomew Ogbeche.
ATK Mohun Bagan (3-4-3): Arindam Bhattacharya (GK), Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Tiri, Manvir Singh, Carl McHugh, Lenny Rodrigues, Prabir Das, Marcelinho, David Williams, Roy Krishna
It is always difficult to predict such a high profile game where the league’s meanest defence faces off against the league’s most prolific attack. It could very well develop to be a game between the ATK Mohun Bagan’s defence and Mumbai City FC’s attack and our bet is on a stalemate between the two sides. It could very well end in a 1-1 draw.