Mumbai: Mumbai City FC and North East United, both placed in the lower half of the eight-team Indian Super League football, will cross swords at the D Y Patil Stadium on Wednesday with the winner gaining an entry into the top half of the standings.
The two teams had started their bid in the tournament without scoring a win in their first three games but have put their campaign on track by winning the last two matches, both in home environs.
Mumbai, who are sixth currently with seven points, would even go into the top two with a win.
They have the advantage of playing at home for the fourth successive game and NEU would have to do something extra to put it across them.
The biggest plus for Mumbai after a poor start has been the goal-scoring touch discovered by their star striker Sunil Chhetri.
The India captain found the mark in both their previous games and has three goals to his credit so far, the same as NEU's South American striker Nicolas Leandro Velez.
Chhetri has also combined well with Haitian Sunil Norde and this duo would be monitored closely by the NEU defenders.
Marquee player cum coach Nicolas Anelka played for 15 minutes in the earlier game against FC Goa that Mumbai won 2-0 and could take the field sometime during the course of the match, said the team's assistant coach Oscar Bruzon today.
"He would not start the match but may be on the field later. We will take a call on how much time he should be on the pitch after our training session today," said Bruzon.
The team has picked up 15 yellow cards so far, the second-worst after Chennayin's 17, but Bruzon said his players would play tough "but well within the rules of the game."
Norde has been in good form and Bruzon was surprised when asked whether he would be rested soon.
"He's one of our best and we are very happy with him. He's playing at very good level, combining well with Sunil and all the players are comfortable around him. There's no reason for us to rest him as after the game against Kolkata (ATK) we have five days' rest and after that game we have six days' rest," said Bruzon.
"This is a must win game for us. We are now playing at home and will soon finish the run of five home games. It will be tough for us when we play away, so we have to take the maximum points now. We have better chances now since we are playing at home," Bruzon said.
"We are being consistent in defence. Opponents have not been able to create many chances. We are keeping our opponents under watch. When you are confident at the back, the attacking players also feel confident," said the Spanish coach.
"North East will be difficult. It's going to be a good fight. Both are fit teams," he added. NEU head coach Cesar Farias chose to focus on his own players rather than anyone in the opposite ranks.
"We don't have to worry about them. They will have to worry about us," was his refrain when asked who did he think was his team's major threat from the Mumbai ranks.
"Attitude to win, which is very important in soccer," he said when asked about his team's major strength. He also brushed aside concerns that his players could be taxed more because of the difficulties in travelling long distances from their home centre in Guwahati.
"We knew about this from the beginning and have taken precautions as long journeys mostly affect the lower back and hamstrings. We can't complain," he said.
After three straight losses away from home against FC Pune City, FC Goa and Chennayin FC, the team regrouped and defeated Chennaying and Atletico on October 20 and 23 respectively at Guwahati, with Argentinian sharp-shooter Valez proving to be the lynchpin of their attack.
Wednesday's game will show whether they can produce the winning touch away from home.