Navi Mumbai: Placed right at the bottom half of the points table in the Indian Super League (ISL), both Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters FC have no other option but to win all the remaining matches, starting with the one at the DY Patil Stadium here on Thursday, to ensure a place in the play-offs.
With three losses from last five games, hosts Mumbai are seventh with 12 points from 11 games, having won three, drawn three and lost five. Whereas, visitors Kerala are at the bottom in eighth place with 11 points from 11 games, losing six, winning three and drawing two.
The two sides earlier met in the first leg encounter on October 10 with the match ending in a goalless draw.
Both sides come into Thursday's match following losses in the respective previous matches. Mumbai went down 0-2 to NorthEast United FC while Blasters lost 1-4 to Chennaiyin FC.
The upcoming tie will be more than crucial for both the sides, keeping in mind a win might keep them in hunt for semifinals and a loss will more or less end their hope of qualifying for the knockouts.
French football great Nicolas Anekla, who is the coach-cum-marquee-player for Mumbai this season, has failed to make an impact. Both his coaching and performance on the field have been below par.
India skipper Sunil Chhetri, who was the tournament's leading scorer with six goals, failed to make an impact in the last few matches and will be raring to deliver on Thursday.
The return of key winger Sony Norde will be a big plus for the side considering the inspiring form he was in the current season. The former Mohun Bagan player was away on national duty for Haiti.
Anelka will have to get his demoralised boys inspired as it's high time the team gets back to winning ways.
Oh the other hand, despite being last year's finalist, Kerala lacked the spark this time around. The absence of a genuine goal-scorer must be surely hurting batting legend Sachin Tendulkar co-owned side.
Blasters coach Trevor Morgan must ensure his boys get back to rhythm and for the important away game.