Mumbai City FC look to continue their tremendous form against winless Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. Mumbai have two wins and a draw from their first three matches of ISL 2016 whereas Kerala have suffered two defeats and salvaged a draw.
The two teams could not be further apart on the form spectrum. While Mumbai were part of a highly entertaining 1-1 draw against Atletico de Kolkata on Tuesday, Kerala have yet to score a goal in this edition of the ISL. Clearly suffering from a hangover of last season’s bottom position, the Blasters need to find their mark against a team that has conceded only one goal in three matches.
Mumbai’s defensive record has been extraordinary and a long range shot (which was actually a deflection) is the only goal that they have conceded. Coach Alexandre Guimaraes has time and again commented on the need for a strong defensive team and despite giving easy opportunities to opposing teams, Mumbai have still maintained a near spotless defensive record.
Offensively Mumbai will have to continue playing with attacking midfielders upfront. Marquee signing Diego Forlan is yet to recover from an injury. “Diego hasn't travelled with the team. He is working hard on his recovery with our medical staff and we hope that we can have him back fully fit at the earliest,” said Guimaraes.
This, along with Sunil Chettri’s non-availability, means it’s going to be the trio of Matias Defederico, Boithang Haokip and Leo Costa who will once again don the mantle of providing firepower upfront for Mumbai.
Kerala, on the other hand, are not without their own injury problems. Central defender Cedric Hengbart looks set to sit this match out.
“I don’t know to be honest,” Kerala Blasters coach Steve Coppell said when asked whether he can count on Hengbart’s services for Friday’s clash. “We will wait till the last minute to check his fitness. After the injury (in the last match), I thought he wouldn’t be available but he is such a warrior that he is working hard, rehabilitating and trying to make himself available for this match.”
Copell has not had the best of starts in India and the ISL. The lack of goals and results have baffled many but Copell is firm in his belief that results would be coming and the Blasters might go on a winning run of five to six matches.
“The players fully understand the responsibility of trying to entertain these fabulous fans and the players went flat out to try and give them the victory that they desire. I personally feel we are very close (to winning). As a team, we are capable of winning five or six matches on the bounce,” said Coppell.
Meanwhile, Brazilian born Costa Rican manager Guimaraes has almost no reason to complain from his Mumbai City FC squad ahead of their fourth match. But the red card to Pronay Halder and a goal from Javi Lara (deflected off the foot of Jackichand Singh) meant that Guimaraes’ side had to share the spoils and drop their first points of the league against Atletico de Kolkata.
“I would have liked to have nine points and I think we played with the intention of getting maximum points. But that's how the game is. More than the points, what needs to be focused on is the performance. Our efforts from our pre-season training are now showing results and I am very happy,” said Guimaraes.
Kerala, though, have one thing going for them at the moment and that is the support of their fans. In spite of results, 55,000 people back their team and this would be a new experience for Mumbai, a team that has only played in small stadiums like the Balewadi in Pune or their home ground, the Andheri Sports Complex.
“It's the first time we'll be playing in these kind of circumstances but my players have shown confidence and I am hoping we put up an equally good, if not better performance tomorrow against Kerala Blasters,” he concluded.