Round twelve of the I-League 2013-14 season spreads our attention to the Balewadi Sports complex in Pune, which will bear witness to the battle between Mumbai FC and East Bengal. The Mumbaikars with just one away win all season will know its melting pot time as they desperately seek to find the points to thrust themselves out of the relegation zone. East Bengal on the other hand will seek to stretch their mini unbeaten streak they have assembled together further under Colaco, as they aim to become genuine title contenders. This should help set the tempo for a great tactical duel.
Mumbai FC are currently undergoing a crisis of sorts. The draw experts have a squad that seems to lack a vital spark which is costing them the chance to win the games they should easily have disposed with. They have drawn an incredible FIVE games out of ten this season, losing four other and winning the solitary one, against Churchill Brothers. They lie eleventh in the league table, although just three points from safety. Khalid Jamil, Indian coach of Mumbai FC, will look too turn the tide and infuse the much needed confidence as soon as possible.
It is for that reason that they had signed on outcasts - Mohammed Rafi, N.P. Pradeep, Peter Costa and Khelemba Meetei from the IMG-Reliance sponsored league. Rafi a striker will spearhead the attack while Costa and Meetei will add steel to a lukewarm Mumbai defense while Pradeep will do the running in midfield.
Another boost to the Mumbaikars will be the signing of Yusif Yakubu, a foreign striker who will no doubt be a presence beside Barikzai Hashmatullah and Sanjdar Ahmadi in attack. Jamil will be at odds on which one of his four Afghans to replace, with all the fingers pointing to Ahmad Hatifie, the medio. Another Achilles heel for Mumbai is the form of Haroon Amiri, the versatile Afghan player, who seemed to dictate Mumbai FC’s results this season, but his form seems to have tailed away and so has Mumbai’s.
Jamil has lamented his team’s lack of depth as they continue to cope with injuries for their players. However, now with the new signings in the bag, no excuses will be expected. “We will know what impact he (Yakubu) will have on the team only when he plays, but he will be vital. Let’s see,” explained the Mumbai FC gaffer.
Armando Coalco, coach of East Bengal, on the other hand seems to facing no problems of that sort. His squad seems to have settled and confidence is still high after winning the Kolkata derby. A bit of bother for the veteran Goan coach seems to be the fitness of skipper Mehtab Hossain, who has been ruled out of the game against the Mumbaikars. Saumik Dey and Harmanjot Khabra, seem to be doubtful participants too. Apart from that he has a full squad to choose from.
“Right from the beginning they have not been match fit. Probably they didn’t do the pre-season conditioning properly, which is why they tend to get injured,” elucidated Colaco. He went on to add, “No one is indispensable in this team. If Mehtab is not there, we have people like Lobo and Khabra who can deliver. I’m quite confident.”
Currently in ninth, they seem to miss easy opportunities to score and take the tie away from their opponents, something Colaco will surely have addressed. A win will put them sixth, ahead of Shillong Lajong, with four games still in hand. Surely, a sweetener for more success to come.
The away team holds the advantage on paper, winning four of their last six games against the Yellow and Blacks of Mumbai, while the home side have won only two, with two draws littering the stats.
Pedantically speaking, this match is a surely one that will be decided on the basis of tactical nous. But when the battle for supremacy comes fore, all rules are thrown out of the window and this is exactly what you should expect from this game - An all-out feisty, riveting tie that could decide the fate of the competing teams.
Mumbai need the win, anything less and Jamil will be boiling soup, while Colaco knows a loss or draw will blow away all chances of catching the leading pack by the time they have disposed with their added quota of games remaining. A fascinating set of permutations and combinations that will eventually lead to an even interesting match.
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