ISL 2018-19: With Marcelinho back, FC Pune City start as favourites in Maharashtra Derby against Mumbai City FC

After a home defeat to Jamshedpur FC and a battling draw against Kerala Blasters, Mumbai City FC will be aiming to get their first win of the season in the Maharashtra Derby against FC Pune City on Friday. However, given their dismal record against Pune, Mumbai’s wait for a win this season may last longer.

Pune enjoy a very good record in the Maharashtra Derby having won five out of the eight clashes. The Stallions have only lost once in Mumbai — a 5-0 drubbing in 2014 — but are unbeaten since.

 ISL 2018-19: With Marcelinho back, FC Pune City start as favourites in Maharashtra Derby against Mumbai City FC

The last time they played Mumbai City FC, FC Pune City's Marcelinho proved to be the difference. Image Courtesy: ISL

With Marcelinho available for selection after missing out on Pune’s first match against Delhi Dynamos, Portugal has a full squad to choose from. Should he opt to start Marcelinho in attack, 19-year-old Jakob Vanlalhimpuia is expected to drop to the bench.

Ashique Kuruniyan and Emiliano Alfaro had a decent outing against Delhi and will partner Marcelinho in attack. Marcelinho and Alfaro formed a deadly partnership for Pune, scoring half of their  goals, last season. Back together once again, the duo will be relishing the prospect of coming up against a vulnerable Mumbai defence.

Jonathan Vila enjoyed a good debut in Delhi and was solid in his defensive midfield role ahead of the Pune defence. Adil Khan and Marko Stankovic formed a strong partnership in midfield for Pune last season and they will be tasked with keeping Pune ticking in midfield on Friday.

Despite playing together for the first time in the ISL, new signings Matt Mills and Martin Diaz looked comfortable in defence against Delhi and would have come away with a clean sheet, but for Rana Garhami’s long-range stunner.

Three days after they take on Mumbai at the Mumbai Football Arena, Pune will prepare for the daunting visit of 2017-18 Indian Super League runners-up Bengaluru FC. That home match will be followed by another tricky encounter against FC Goa six days later. With that in mind, Portugal hinted at rotating his side for the match against Mumbai.

With the league’s rules allowing only five foreign players in the starting XI, Portugal will have to drop one of Alfaro, Vila, Stankovic, Mills and Diaz to accommodate Marcelinho. No matter who he drops, Portugal can rely on the likes of Robin Singh, Nikhil Poojari, Sahil Panwar and Gurtej Singh to step up to the plate.

Despite recovering from their 0-2 home loss to Jamshedpur with a a battling draw on the road against Kerala Blasters, Mumbai seem far from the finished product. The Islanders look vulnerable in defence and have been toothless going forward.

Jorge Costa has inherited a side which has undergone major overhaul and he is yet to zero in on his best starting XI. The former Porto man made four changes to his side against Kerala while also tinkering with his formation.

Portugal likes his sides to attack from the wings and in Marcelinho, Alfaro and Ashique, he has players who are able to take apart defences in no time. Costa’s challenge would be to stifle Pune’s attack but it would be a tall order considering the form of his defence. Lucian Goian looks the most settled of the four defenders but even he had lapses of concentration against Jamshedpur.

In his pre-match press conference, Portugal singled out Goian, Paulo Machado and Rafael Bastos as the key players for Mumbai. Despite the praise from the opposition manager, the trio is yet to have an impact.

There have been flashes of brilliance in attack from the likes of Mohammed Rafique, Sanju Pradhan, Raynier Fernandes and Modou Sougou, but they have lacked consistency. Matias Mirabaje came off the bench in both the matches and has hopefully gained match fitness during the international break. With him in the side, Mumbai look more threatening in attack, at least on paper.

Not for the first time, Mumbai City FC start as underdogs in the Maharashtra Derby. With a team in transition and a FC Pune City side strengthened by the return of captain Marcelinho, the Islanders couldn’t have asked for much worse timing to play their bogey team.

Updated Date: Oct 19, 2018 08:51:32 IST