ISL: Mumbai, NE battle for playoffs

Mumbai: After two back-to-back defeats, Mumbai City FC would be keen to get back to winning ways when they clash with an equally strong North East United FC in an Indian Super League encounter here on Wednesday.
Mumbai’s unbeaten run of nine games ended when they suffered a 2-0 loss against FC Goa here at the Mumbai Football Arena in their previous home game.
The next ‘away’ outing against Jamshedpur FC also proved to be a damp squib as they lost 1-0.
Mumbai coach Jorge Costa would be eyeing to grab three crucial points from this game.
At present, after 15 games, Mumbai are in the second spot in the standings with 27 points, just behind league leaders Bengaluru FC (31 points).
North East United FC are in the fourth position with 24 points from 15 games and a win would enhance their chances of reaching the playoffs.
For the hosts, their best bet would be Senegalese medio Modou Sougou, who has nine goals to his name so far. He has formed a lethal combination with Congo striker Arnold Issoko, who has five assists to his name.
Sougou, who failed to create his magic against Goa, will be eager to do something special this time around. The hosts also have Brazilian striker Rafael Bastos. His rapport with both Issoko and Sougou has also been good.
If the trio fire in unison, the opposition defenders will come under severe pressure.
Mumbai also have a strong midfield manned by Sougou, Paulo Machado and Matias Mirabaje. They also have a strong defence, but need to pull up their socks and work on their weakness which was throughly exposed by Goa.
Experienced Mumbai custodian Amrinder Singh was tested severely in the game against Goa and he let in two goals. He would be anxious to put up a better show.
But that would be an arduous task as the visitors have French striker Bartholomew Ogbeche, who is the leading goal scorer in the season with 11 strikes, to bank on.
Terming North East as an aggressive outfit, Costa said his team would need to give their best. “I will not change the way that we wish to play. They (NorthEast United) have very good players and are a very aggressive team. In terms of organisation, one of the best teams in India. We need to give our best. We want to finish the game and have three points,” said Costa, who will miss captain Lucian Goian after picking up his fourth yellow card.
Apart from Ogbeche, other North East strikers are Girik Khosla, Juan Mascia and Kivi Zhimomi. The visitors also have an array of strong mid-fielders and defenders, but they would miss services of injured Mislav Komorski.
North East coach Eelco Schattorie said he has told his players that they cannot afford to make mistakes.
“It is all or nothing. I told my players that the phase you are going into now is a phase that is done within a second. Your mindset needs to be completely different from that at the beginning of the season.
“You cannot afford to make mistakes, especially at this stage because now Jamshedpur FC is very close and ATK a little bit away. How to win is not important, we need three points,” said Schattorie. (PTI)

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