Gathering some momentum following a 3-0 drubbing of bottom-placed Delhi Dynamos, the resurgent Kerala Blasters FC have their task cut out when they take on Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League game in Mumbai on Sunday.
The visitors, who have changed their head coach recently with Englishman David James taking over from Rene M who departed after the 1-3 humiliation against Bengaluru FC, will require to do something extraordinary to tame MCFC in their home environs.
Kerala’s stuttering campaign in the league was given a shot in the arm in the national capital thanks to veteran Canadian Iain Hume’s goal-scoring skills with a timely hat-trick.
However, Mumbai’s defense is much more solid with a back-line comprising defenders Gerson Vieira and Lucian Goian backed up by the alert goalkeeping of Amrinder Singh.
A victory for the visitors against Mumbai, a tough ask after they stopped their winless seven-game run against Delhi, will boost Kerala’s tally to 14 and bring them level on points with the hosts.
The visitors will be eagerly awaiting the status of Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov following his injury against Delhi on January 10 but have in Mark Sifneos, with three goals under his belt, the man to plug the gap.
C K Vineeth has also returned after his red-card suspension and will be eager to show his attacking worth against the strong Mumbai defense.
Two other players – one from either outfit – have been booked thrice and defender Sandesh Jhingan of Blasters and Abinash Ruidas of Mumbai will need to be extra careful not to pick up their fourth yellow card and face suspension from their team’s following game.
Mumbai have had a lengthy rest period as compared to the visitors, having previously played on January 5 in a 2-2 away draw with Jamshedpur FC, and this should also be a major advantage to the hosts.
The previous home game for Mumbai was on December 29 when they hammered the hapless Delhi 4-0 but also lost the services of Sehnaj Singh in the ill-tempered game through a red-card suspension before half time. Mehrajuddin Wadoo replaced Sehnaj against Jamshedpur.
Balwant Singh, with five strikes, and Brazilian Thiago Santos (4 goals) have been the home team’s main goal-getters but they have others too such as the highly impressive attacking mid-fielders – Cameroonian Achille Emana and Brazilian Everton Santos – also for getting into the score-sheet.
With a fine attacking line-up and equally impressive defensive skills, the Alexandre Guimaraes-managed Mumbai look hard to beat in their citadel – the Mumbai Football Arena in suburban Andheri – and Kerala will need to bring on all their energy to vanquish them in their home den.