Well, whaddya know, that dreaded international break is finally gone, and in its stead, we now have a game every single day till the middle of November!! If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will, and what’s more, we’ve also got the very first ‘Maha’ derby of the 2018/19 ISL season, with Mumbai City playing host to FC Pune City.
The Islanders have had a middling start to the season so far; a 2-0 home loss to Jamshedpur FC followed up by a point away to Kerala Blasters, which was only secured via a long-range screamer from Pranjal Bhumij. Pune, on the other hand, have only played one game so far – a 1-1 draw with Delhi Dynamos. Both teams, therefore, come into this game looking for their first wins of the season; the stakes could not be higher for what already is a highly charged affair.
Costa still looking to find his XI
Jorge Costa is yet to settle on his preferred line-up; shuffling his pack across both of Mumbai’s games so far, and the news that defender Davinder Singh is out for the season with a knee ligament injury will not have helped the mood in the Mumbai camp. The Islanders have named 27-year old Joyner Lourenco as Singh’s replacement; the Goan played for Bengaluru FC in last year’s ISL. Matias Mirabaje is also a doubt for the clash against Pune, which means that Rafael Bastos may get a reprieve despite his poor displays in both games so far.
Marcelinho could provide lift-off for Pune
The Stallions played their first game without their talisman Marcelinho, but he is expected to make the lineup for this game. That aside, Miguel Angel Portugal may just send in the same team that drew with Delhi; they were more than a match for the Dynamos, and can expect to take advantage of Mumbai’s brittle confidence going into the derby.
Mumbai City FC (4-2-3-1): Amrinder (C); Chakrabarti, Goian, Klisura, Bose; Issoko, Machado, Sehnaj, Fernandes, Bastos; Sogou
FC Pune City (4-1-4-1): Kaith; Tamang, Mills, Diaz, Fanai; Vila; Jakob, Stankovic, Khan, Marcelinho; Alfaro (C)
Mumbai should be sent out in a 4-2-3-1, with Marko Klisura returning to partner Lucian Goian in defence, while Rafael Bastos will need to provide a lot more creativity than he has been doing recently. Modou Sogou needs to start taking his chances too; the Senegalese striker has been guilty of missing some very presentable chances across the first two games.
Pune will look to stifle Mumbai with their 4-1-4-1 system; Vila protecting the defence and allowing Tamang and Fanai to get high up the pitch, and if Marcelinho does play, Chakrabarti will have a tough task on his hands keeping the Brazilian quiet. As it is, Ashique Kuruniyan had a mixed bag of a game against Delhi, and Miguel Portugal will perhaps be relieved that he has his Brazilian ace back for this crucial tie.
This is honestly a difficult one to call; the international break would have given both coaches time to work with their sides on the training ground, and while Mumbai will be desperate for a win following two winless games, Pune too will want to get their season up and running. I am going for a 1-1 draw in this game, but in reality, a Mumbai win would be a brilliant start to the weekend for me personally.