Mumbai City FC travel to Chennai with top spot in sight

Chennai, Feb 22 (UNI) Mumbai City FC will travel to take on Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in the Indian Super League (ISL) match on Friday.

Placed third in the standings, a win with a goal difference of three or more here could take the Islanders (28) to the top of the table, displacing Odisha FC (31) – a team that has played 15 games so far.

The Islanders bounced from their 3-2 shock loss to Jamshedpur FC to win against East Bengal FC and Bengaluru FC in the last two games. In addition to the three points, it is their consecutive clean sheets that must have come as a sigh of relief, especially due to the departure of defensive mainstay Rostyn Griffiths.

Contrastingly, Chennaiyin FC has played twice since the league resumed late last month. A 1-0 loss to Bengaluru FC was followed with a victory by a similar margin against Kerala Blasters FC.

Hosting Mumbai City FC gives the Marina Machans a chance to get a second straight home win under their belt, also helping them (15) edge past the seventh-placed Jamshedpur FC (17) and get closer to NorthEast United FC (18), who have broken into the playoffs spots with their 2-0 victory against FC Goa at Fatorda on Wednesday.

Interestingly, Chennaiyin FC does not boast of the best of records against Mumbai City FC lately. They have lost all of their last five matches against the Islanders in the ISL. The Marina Machans have failed to find the back of the net eight times in the ISL against Mumbai City FC, which is the most number of times that they have gone scoreless against any opposition.

However, the team has been coming on its own both at the back as well as at the front in the previous few games.

They have not conceded a goal in their previous two matches at home, and their fleet footed forwards have come to the rescue many a time – helping them earn spot-kicks often. Chennaiyin FC has scored 25% of their total goals (4 out of 16) from penalties in ISL 2023-24, which is the highest share amongst all teams.

The prospects of this clash could be decided in the first 15 minutes itself, given the track record of both teams. The Marina Machans are strong starters, having netted five times in that phase this season.

However, Mumbai City FC begins matches neatly, having given away only one goal in the opening 15 minutes, which is the lowest amongst all sides in the competition. Will Rafael Crivellaro & Co. be able to catch the Islanders off guard at the start of the game tomorrow?

The Mumbai City FC have gotten the better of their coming opponents consistently for a reasonable period now. They have rediscovered their scoring touch, having netted 23 goals in 14 matches this season.

For instance, they have found the back of the net at least once in each of their last four games. This comes after them failing to score in three of the four encounters prior to that.

However, their last longer scoring streak was a stretch of seven matches from March-December 2023, and Petr Kratky’s men will be eager to extend their current run against the Marina Machans on Friday.

Their five-match winning run against Chennaiyin FC is their outright longest such streak in front of any team in the competition. That form should infuse confidence within the setup and also hold them in good stead to come up triumphant against a team that is gradually finding its feet at home recently.

Brazilian playmaker Rafael Crivellaro of Chennaiyin FC will be instrumental in unlocking the Mumbai City FC defence. With three goals and five assists in 14 appearances, Crivellaro has given a fair account of his prowess to both create and put goal-scoring opportunities to bed this season.

He has created 23 goal-scoring opportunities and taken 17 shots, out of which 52.94% have been on target – thus constantly testing the opposition goalkeeper.

He has averaged 27 passes per game at 73% accuracy, earning an impressive 32 fouls that help the Marina Machans score from both set-pieces and spot kicks.

Crivellaro averages 9.3 penalty area entries per game this season, which is the second-highest amongst all players in the competitions, only after the 10.3 recorded by FC Goa’s Brandon Fernandes. His enterprising and creative outlook towards the game will be at the core of Chennaiyin FC’s forward forays, as always.

With the brace in the last game, Vikram Partap Singh of Mumbai City FC has taken his goal-scoring tally to three strikes and an assist in ISL 2023-24, resulting in a goal contribution every 142.22 minutes that he has spent on the field. The attacker is emerging as a lethal threat from all fronts.

He has shown good efficiency in getting to the end of and pouncing upon the numerous deliveries that his teammates put inside the box.

Additionally, he even scored a head goal against Bengaluru FC, adding another layer to his already impressive gameplay. Vikram has taken 15 shots this campaign and averages the same number of passes at 71% accuracy.

He has won 10 fouls and also emerged victorious in 12 aerial duels, creating seven goal-scoring chances so far as well. Vikram will be hoping to deliver similar returns consistently in the coming eight encounters of the league stages.

“For us, the best that we have been this season is when we have been an aggressive team. We like to put pressure on the opposition, but as you see it, they are very good at keeping and playing the ball at the back too,” Chennaiyin FC assistant coach Sandy Stewart said in the pre-match press conference.

“It was very important for us after the Jamshedpur FC loss to bounce back, and the back-to-back wins make it even better. We have to continue our work and repeat it as much and as often as we can,” Mumbai City FC head coach Petr Kratky said in the pre-match press conference.

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