Mumbai: Upbeat Mumbai City FC would be seeking to notch up a fourth win on the trot and shoot their way back to the top two on the table when they take on defending champions Atletico de Kolkata in the Indian Super League clash, here tomorrow.
While the hosts are in fourth position with ten points, the title holders are struggling to keep afloat and are sixth with seven points, badly needing a victory to resurrect their sagging hopes. It’s going to be an uphill struggle for the visitors at the D Y Patil Stadium especially with Mumbai riding a crest of success following convincing wins over Delhi Dynamos, FC Goa and North East United.
India captain Sunil Chhetri has been in top form, playing as a withdrawn forward and combining beautifully with teammates Sony Norde and Subash Singh up front. It’s going to take all their defensive might to keep the diminutive striker, who scored a hat-trick in the 5-1 drubbing of NEU in Mumbai’s last outing, to keep him and the other rampaging forwards at bay.
Mumbai’s defense was tested by NEU and kept its slate clean but for the one lapse in the first half. However, against Kolkata they could not turn complacent and take things lightly even though the visitors are on a losing streak following their third successive defeat against Delhi Dynamos two nights ago.
“It is very disappointing for us. We lost three games in a row,” ATK coach Antonio Lopez Habas said 1-0 loss to the Dynamos at the Salt Lake Stadium. However, he was confident about ATK’s qualifying hopes. “I think so. There are many games to play. We have the possibility to go and qualify,” he quipped.
But for this to happen his team has to re-discover some element of the form that helped them clinch the title in the inaugural year of the tournament. The team lacks a striker because of the injury sustained by marquee player Helder Postiga.
“I don’t want to lie. It’s clear that we need a striker. It’s very, very clear for all,” he said after the disappointing loss to Dynamos. “I have to recover the mentality of the players because three losses in a row can affect the mentality. We also have injury problems to deal with,” he had pointed out about the upcoming clash against Mumbai.
Mumbai, on the other hand, are riding high on the sort of opportunism shown by Chhetri who has scored six goals in the last three matches, albeit two of them were slotted home from the penalty spot, by playing just behind the lead striker – Frenchman Frederic Piquionne. Mumbai FC’s assistant coach Oscar Bruzon said after the runaway win over NEU that the team was intent on clinching 20 points by winning their three remaining home games.
“I know we are second on the table. But we are only focusing on Atletico de Kolkata and the main objective of our team is reaching 20 points as soon as possible and I can tell you this will not be easy because we need to win three more games. We have only three more games at home so we want to keep working,” he said.
He also said that Chhetri had been a revelation after switching to the middle of the attack, in a withdrawn position. “In the beginning, he was trying to take a lot of responsibilities at the front. In that moment, when we were trying to play him on the left and on the right and the combination was not working. Then we put Sunil in the bridge between the midfield and the attacking line. And now Sunil is completely exceeding our expectations.” A similar central role is expected to be given to the star India striker against ATK.
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