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ISL 2022: Top-four spot on Mumbai mind as SC East Bengal test beckons


GOA, FEBRUARY 21, 2022

A spot in the semifinal firmly in their minds, Mumbai City FC will go all guns blazing against rock-bottom SC East Bengal who have nothing to lose, in the Hero Indian Super League at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda on Tuesday.

Mumbai are placed fifth in the points table, having 25 points from 16 matches and need a win to get back in the top four. Kerala Blasters are two points above them playing the same number of games.

The defending champions lost to Jamshedpur FC in their last outing after racking up two wins on the bounce, and head coach Des Buckingham would hope his boys can arrest a spell of inconsistent run and get back to business when it matters.

“The mood in the camp has never been a problem. That’s where you go back to having good people and good players. We are a family and there is a sense among this group. We are clear what we want as a group and until that’s not possible we want to approach this game in an upbeat manner which will set us up for the final three games in the best position at the end of the season,” Buckingham said at the pre-match press conference.

Ahmed Jahouh was substituted early on against Jamshedpur after getting injured. “It will depend (formation) on whether or not he will play. And also on East Bengal’s style of play,” said Buckingham when asked about what formation Mumbai will play with Jahouh being doubtful.

Asked if SC East Bengal’s poor run of form will be an advantage, Buckingham said: “We’ve seen the other day, NorthEast United beat Bengaluru. We can’t turn our attention away from performing at the top level against East Bengal. We played them once already and we dropped two points.” The last time the two teams met, it ended in a 0-0 draw.

For SC East Bengal, it is all about ending the season on a high and not finishing at the foot of the table. The red and golds have won just one game so far and have also scored the joint fewest goals along with Chennaiyin FC. The Mario Rivera-coached side have also dropped too many points from winning positions.

“Mumbai City FC will need to win to reach the top four so the pressure will be on them. But they have big-game players who know how to deliver under pressure so it will not be an easy game for us too,” he said before the game.

SC East Bengal will be missing the services of Hira Mondal, who has been one of their best performers, as the left-back picked up his fourth booking in the last game. Naocha Singh, who is on loan from Mumbai, will also not be available.

“Hira is a fantastic player and has a very distinctive set of skills. I talk to him a lot. If he keeps going like this and learns every day, he will be on the national team soon. But for now, he needs to learn more and correct his mistakes. He is on the right track,” said Rivera.

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