Image Credits: @HEROISL
Separated only by a two points at the top of the table as the two attacking heavyweights, ATK Mohun Bagan vs Mumbai City FC serves as the perfect thigh-rubber clash in the Hero Indian Super League season.
The big game of the season so far is obviously and undoubtedly Monday night's fixture, when ATK Mohun Bagan take on league leaders Mumbai City FC in one of Hero Indian Super League's most anticipated affair at the Fatorda Stadium.
More than bragging rights at stake
In what could be a potential six-pointer, the clash of the top two teams could set the tone for the second half of the season. Not only bragging rights are at stake, but the fight for top spot could get even feistier with Asian Champions League qualification the biggest incentive before the playoffs roll in.
Having scored 16 goals so far, Mumbai City has the best attack in the league with a goal conversion rate of 15.84%. They have scored in their last eight games. ATKMB undeniably has the best defense, having maintained 7 clean sheets in nine games, and are yet to concede a goal from open play this season.
While the stats indicate the match would be a battle of attack against defence, ATKMB coach Antonio Habas brushed aside the claims. "I don't think that Mumbai is a team that only attacks. They have good progressional play and counter-attacks. It's very difficult to stop their team because they always play forward but I don't think it's a match between attacking and defending because football is a game of attacking and defending. Both teams have transitions from one side to the other," he said.
“The importance of a match depends on the moment. Now, it's a match between the first and second teams. Maybe two or three weeks later, the match may not have the same importance but the idea is to play the same way,” he added.
No better time and place for Mumbai put on a show
Mumbai City FC coach Sergio Lobera has kept his team unbeaten following a defeat on opening day. The real test for the Spaniard however awaits when he faces ATKMB who are also on a five-match unbeaten run. However, Lobera felt that the match wouldn’t determine the course of the league and said, “I think it's going to be important but not a crucial game. It's just halfway and in this competition anything is possible. Anything can change in short time. Most important thing is now to keep our focus and improve our game,”
Though there are no injury concerns for the Spaniard, he will miss the services of Ahmed Jahouh, who received his second red card of the season. But the coach has based his principles on team play over individual dependence.
“Jahouh is an important player for us but I have a very good squad and there cannot be excuses about this,” he said. “Most important for me is teamwork. It's not about individuality. We are good players but you need to work as a team.”
“When you finish one game, the next game is the most important game. The situation is the same for tomorrow. It's going to be difficult as we are going to play against a good team. ATK Mohun Bagan are doing a good job,” he said.