ISL 2015: Mumbai City FC vs FC Pune - Preview
Pune are sitting pretty in second spot - one point behind leaders Goa.
Mumbai: Struggling Mumbai City FC clash with state rivals FC Pune City at D Y Patil Stadium on Friday in the return leg of their Indian Super League football's Maharashtra Derby, seeking a crucial victory in their quest to make the last four grade.
Placed 6th in the eight-team League, the Nicolas Anelka-managed side need a win in their second-last home game to leap into the top four on the table led by FC Goa with 15 points.
With just one other home game scheduled, against Kerala Blasters on November 26 after tomorrow's match, a lot hinges on the contest - also a revenge clash for Mumbai after their 1-3 humiliation in the away first leg - against Pune.
Pune, on the other hand, are sitting pretty in second spot - one point behind leaders Goa - and a victory would pitchfork the David Platt-coached side back into the top spot on the table.
Mumbai had things going very much their way following a hat-trick of home wins over Delhi Dynamos, FC Goa and North East United FC, before a 4-1 thrashing by last year's champions Atletico de Kolkata upset their rhythm.
The defeat came in a match when marquee player cum manager Anelka shed the latter role to take up the mantle of the main striker.
But this move seemed to have upset the settled combine up front, which included India skipper Sunil Chhetri playing as the central striker, and a big defeat occurred.
This was followed by a 1-1 draw against the Dynamos, but off-the-field troubles arose ahead of this game resulting in assistant coach Oscar Bruzon parting ways with the team.
Mumbai may not be in the best frame of mind following these happenings and Pune, also seeking a win after the last-gasp 2-2 draw on November 8 at home against table leaders Goa, would be eager to exploit any such weakness.
Pune possess a dependable set of defenders, efficient mid-fielders and good strikers - including marquee player Adrian Mutu who started the match and ended it with a stoppage time goal too against Goa - to turn the tables on a less-than-fully settled Mumbai.
Meanwhile, Anelka was worried about unpredictability of the Mumbai team.
"I believe we can do better than the away game we had in Pune but the Mumbai team is unpredictable. We can be very good on our day and we can also be very poor. That's not a good point but I hope we will see the very good face of Mumbai against Pune tomorrow," said Anelka on the eve of the match.
For the opening round away match against FC Pune City, Mumbai City had missed the service of Chhetri and goalkeeper Subrata Paul. Anelka once again finds himself in similar situation with his star striker and goalkeeper on national duty. To add to his woes, Norde too has flown back to join his national duty and will miss two matches.
"They are good players, so of course we will miss them. But the team is ready and we will try our best to do the job without them," said the former Real Madrid and Chelsea star.
Anelka himself has not been at his best this season and promised to do more in the second phase.
"I have been training well and think I will need more minutes on the pitch to be fitter. But, yes, you can expect to see more of me in the second part of ISL," explained Anelka.
Pune's away form has been a cause of concern, but Platt is not worried.
"We have only played three games away from home and it has been difficult. In Chennai, although we could have been out of the game in the first half, we finished well and could have got something. In Goa again we finished well. The only real performance we have had all season that displeased me totally was Kerala away, but it was our fourth match in 11 days with three of them being away," said the former Manchester City assistant coach.
"Every team has gone through a patch where they have not been at their best. The parity in the league means there are no favourites, so others expectations have no consequence with me," said Platt.
"Mumbai City will be a difficult game for us, away from home against a team that is there or thereabouts, so we will have to be disciplined in our play and confident to get the result," he added.