As Mumbai City rode through their share of highs and lows in the 2019-’20 Indian Super League season, gaffer Jorge Costa insisted that his team “will fight until the end.”
And with only one final playoff spot at stake, Friday’s final league match against Chennaiyin FC will show how much the Islanders are desperate to bag that desired spot.
A victory against the two-time winners will help them punch their ticket to the playoffs but if they return home with anything less than a win, they will have to rely on luck as Chennaiyin FC also have a game in hand against NorthEast United.
Odisha FC, placed sixth, will also be watching the encounter closely as a draw will keep them in contention for the top four.
“The good thing is that the game depends on us,” Costa said at the pre-match press conference on Thursday. “If we win it, we know that no one can catch us and if we lose, we are out. With a draw, it’s almost impossible, but we still have something to believe. We have more pressure than all the others because it’s our last game but we have two options if we want to finish in the top four – win and only win,” he added.
Mumbai City FC vs Chennaiyin FC (head-to-head)
|Teams||Mumbai City||Chennaiyin FC|
The past two years have been challenging for Costa, whose side have been perennial slow starters in the league but this is the contest which could define his legacy at Mumbai City. Last season was relatively easier one: a stingy defense with a high-quality counter-attacking team saw them cruise to the playoffs after Bengaluru FC and FC Goa.
This year, the going has got tough for them after injuries to key personnel at the start but they have rallied back, relying on team spirit and an impressive away form to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Can Mumbai keep Chennaiyin’s attack at bay?
Going by form, Chennaiyin FC are the team to beat at the moment and are enjoying a run like no other team in the division. Owen Coyle’s side are unbeaten in their last six games, winning five of them while scoring a total of 18 goals. Defensively, they lack cohesiveness but their ruthless attacking approach overshadows those defensive flaws.
Nerijus Valskis has been their talisman, netting 13 goals this campaign and is proving to be their signing of the season. Coupled with the additional threat posed by the trio Lallianzuala Chhangte, Andre Schembri and playmaker Rafael Crivellaro, Chennaiyin FC have been a menace to opposition defenses during transitions from defence to attack.
Just like Mumbai City, Chennaiyin FC are a team who don’t rely much on possession and rip apart teams on the counter-attack but the pressure will be on Costa’s rearguard to keep the opposition attackers quiet.
Although the hosts have won three home games on the trot and the fact that the two-time champions have never managed to win at the Mumbai Football Arena (or even score) will encourage them.
However, there’s no denying that the cracks in the Islanders’ defence. Their revamped backline haven’t looked assured alongside their recurring woes at right-back, where injured Sarthak Golui, Souvik Chakrabati (on loan at Hyderabad) and midfielder Mohammad Rafique have failed to impress. The game against Chennaiyin FC and the consequences it has, will be the toughest test for the Mumbai City defence this season.
As Costa nears the end of his contract following a one-year extension in the summer, the Portuguese will hope that his team deliver a result to not only qualify the playoffs but also an option to convince him to stay with them.
Mumbai City FC: L-W-D-W-L
Chennaiyin FC: W-W-W-D-W
(L-Loss, W-Win, D-Draw)