Mumbai is all set to host what has got to be one of the most riveting and nail biting encounters in Indian Super League history as Atletico de Kolkata travel to Mumbai with a slender 1 goal advantage in the second leg of the semi finals.
The Kolkata outfit come into the game with the advantage and the Red and Whites, apart from their one goal lead, will also benefit from the fact that Mumbai City FC will be without their key forward and marquee man Diego Forlan, who will be serving his one match ban after getting sent off in the previous leg. Forlan was a key figure behind City’s first place finish in the league stages, both creating and scoring goals.The absence of the the Uruguayan could come as a huge blow for Alexandre Guimaraes’ side.
Atletico de Kolkata
Jose Molina’s men put one of their best performances this season in their home leg of the semi final. Fast flowing attack combined with the same doggedness they have been showing throughout the season finally came through. Molina has always believed in the policy of outscoring their opponents to win matches rather than going defensive, but the Spaniard had no other option but to resort to setting up shop early after a goal during the league stages as his team of ageing attacking players couldn’t cope up with their new coach’s tactics.
But, having found the correct rhythm this time around, ATK look set to go all guns blazing. Molina made a host of changes from his last encounter and all his changes seemed to have clicked perfectly. In the last match, winger Sameegh Doutie showed how much the Kolkata outfit has missed out on his services.
The South African, with his blistering pace and attacking instincts, was a constant menace for the Mumbai defence and played an instrumental role in both the goals. It seemed Doutie was the missing piece of Molina’s tactical puzzle. His addition from the start along with the dogged relentless chasing and goal scoring prowess of Iain Hume got things going for Molina’s men.
Helder Postiga too, played brilliantly. The former Spurs man played his role perfectly, holding up the ball and playing it around along with winning aerial duels. Defensively though, Atletico are still leaky. Key defender Arnab Mondal, who is likely to miss out again with his injury, is a cause for concern given the inconsistency of his replacement in Kingshuk Debnath. Already with an upper hand given the absence of Forlan and with a goal advantage, Kolkata are the favourites this time around, with all that is left for their Spanish coach is to sort out their defensive frailties.
Sameegh Doutie : The South African winger showed his importance once again with his blistering pace and attacking prowess. He played an instrumental role in all the goals especially winning the penalty. ATK will be looking at him to put up another brilliant display as they look to qualify for the finals.
Iain Hume : The Canadian striker has been Atletico’s most constant player with determined displays all throughout the league stages. What he lacked was his goal scoring form which seems to be creeping back in. With Hume showing signs of his menacing Midas touch in front of goal, ATK could very well confirm their semi final berth.
Predicted Lineup: Debjit; Perreira, Sereno, Debnath, Das; Pearson, Borja, Ralte, Doutie; Postiga, Hume.
Mumbai City FC
Alexandre Guimaraes’ men need to recover and recover fast after their first leg defeat if they need to have a fighting chance to go to the finals. Mumbai played well in their last match against Kolkata, but were outperformed by Kolkata who seemed to have found their stride under Jose Molina.
Mumbai will be playing with a slight handicap as they will miss out on their main man and marquee Diego Forlan. Forlan was in thick of all the action in their last match playing a key role in setting up the goals for his team, his absence can end up being very costly for Mumbai.
While a foreign star is absent, it would be the perfect opportunity for Mumbai’s Indian star and National team captain Sunil Chhetri to step up and make his impact in the league. Chhetri ,who joined in late after a successful AFC Cup run with Bengaluru FC culminating in a disappointing defeat in the finals, is yet to replicate his form with the Bengaluru team here in the ISL.
The Indian captain has looked lacklustre in front of goal and hasn’t been in the best of his form. Going into the second leg already a goal down and missing a key forward in the team, this would be the perfect opportunity for him to show his class. Another player who could very well be a good, if not a like for like replacement for Forlan, is Sony Norde.
The Haitian, who missed out on a place in their previous match, could very well be starting the second leg. He had been very influential during the league stages and will be looking to have a similar impact on the match. Guimaraes needs to sort out his defence too. The centre back pairing of Goian and Anwar Ali needs to find their cohesiveness which was key in Mumbai finishing the league stages on top. Mumbai City still have hope with the goal margin being only one, a good performance like the ones they have been doing all throughout the league stages and they could be very well back with a fighting chance in no time.
Key Players :
Sunil Chhetri : If Mumbai City are to start a fightback for their road to the final, Chhetri needs to be in the best of his form and show people what he is made of. A lot is expected by the fans from their National team captain and what better way to repay their faith than helping their team reach the finals.
Sony Norde : The Haitian might have missed out on the first leg, but with Diego Forlan out the winger will be looking to start again and do so with a bang. The Mohun Bagan man has been crucial during his side’s league run, acting as a sheer menace for the opposition defence, both scoring and creating goals. Alexandre Guimares will be hoping something on similar lines form him, if he decides to start him up top.
Starting Lineup: Amrinder; Ralte, Goian, Ali, Singh; Vadocz, Viera, Defederico, Costa; Norde, Chhetri