The Mumbaikars look to dent Salgaocar FC’s excellent start to the season and get that elusive home win, while the Greens aim to keep pressure on Bengaluru FC at the summitAs we enter round five of the I-League, two of the league’s four unbeaten sides go head-to-head in a riveting encounter that has winner takes all written all over it. For Salgaocar, a win could mean they land atop of the table head to head with Bengaluru FC, while a loss will have them cursing. Mumbai meanwhile need that home win to help them sustain their challenge for higher places or another loss or draw could leave them heavily adrift of where they ought to be.
Mumbai FC strop into the fixture with a less than impervious but a substantial record nonetheless. They’ve remained unbeaten throughout the four matches they’ve played, though, have only won once. The Mumbaikars have also conceded in every draw, having to come from behind most of the time. Khalid Jamil’s tactics can be accredited to Mumbai’s attacking vigour once they go down.
Changing the formation to a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3, catapults Haroon Amiri into the attack, thereby forcing the opposition in confusion or a change in tactics themselves by which they concede a goal. The addition of Sanjdar Ahmadi, Afghanistan’s South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) championship winning striker, has given them options in attack. They will look to capitalise with the still settling Ahmadi on the Salgaocar defence, especially the left back.
Mumbai have no injuries and will surely field a team to go out for the win with Subhash Chakraborty returning from an injury. Yusif Yakubu has still not arrived in Pune though the club management hopes that he should be in by the end of the day.
“The main thing is the team's unity. Everybody is gelling well and helping each other. We have targetted the first five positions and we are trying our best to achieve our goal,” explained Nicholas Rodrigues.
They face a stern opposition in the greens of Salgaocar FC, who have shown that they are indeed one of the dark horses of the competition. They drew with local rivals Dempo SC but thumped Mohammedan Sporting and eased past champions Churchill Brothers, 3-0 and 1-0 respectively.
Confidence doesn’t seem to be amiss in the squad but they will know beating Mumbai, at home will be a considerably difficult proposition. Though Salgaocar's right flank is the best in the top division, the other flank is horribly underwhelming especially the left back position. “We are still trying to get the team doing well on the left also. I'm happy the way things are going on,” was Salgaocar coach Derrick Pereira’s admission.
As per reports Augustin Fernandes is a doubtful starter. The Goan outfit will be wary of man marking anyone from Mumbai FC given the latter's surge in late tactical changes that often lead to confusion.
This then, is a difficult match to draw conclusions on. Given their form, Salgaocar can nick it. Yet the Mumbaikars’ resilience and new formed bite in attack, they can rightly trouble any opposition on their day.
In a match where so much is at stake so early in the season, one can only expect a cagey affair. But as the game progresses and adventure supersedes caution, as fear of losing is overturned by the desperation to win, we can only hope the game explodes into the cracker it should be from the start.
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