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Mumbai City FC look to consolidate top spot as they face NorthEast United FC test

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After a hard-fought win on the road in Matchweek 15, Mumbai City FC will return home with an eye on going seven points clear at the top against NorthEast United FC, in their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) fixture at the Mumbai Football Arena on Thursday. The Islanders, who continue to be unbeaten in the season, confirmed their Hero ISL playoff spot last week with their 11th win of the season, while the Highlanders added a point to their season tally that stands at four.

While their high-flying attack was kept in check by ATKMB last weekend, Mumbai City FC’s defence showed that they have many dimensions to their dominance. The clean sheet allowed Mumbai City FC to take full advantage of Hyderabad FC’s draw last week despite being without their first-choice striker and the club’s top-scorer this season, Jorge Diaz. The Argentinian has served his suspension for picking up four yellow cards and will be available for selection again on Thursday.

After winning in Kolkata last week, the Mumbai City FC team travelled back to the west coast, while Buckingham made a trip to Guwahati and was present in the stands to watch his next opponent grab a point against FC Goa. 

“They are a very different team from the one we last played. In two of the last four games, they have picked up points against ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa. It will be a very different test but we will be prepared,” he said.

This past Sunday, NorthEast United FC avoided defeat for only the second time this season after they drew against FC Goa. The Highlanders are still at the bottom of the table with four points, five behind Jamshedpur FC in tenth place.

Wilmar Gil scored both goals for NorthEast United FC in the match and both came from the penalty spot. The Colombian striker has now scored five goals in eight games. Four of these goals have come from penalties. New recruit Kule Mbombo made his debut down the flank but could not chip in with a goal contribution in the last game.

Vincenzo Annese said after the game that his team has been improving since he took over, but would need to pick up points away from home quickly. He is likely to make changes for the game against Mumbai City FC, with one of them being forced.

“The players are feeling more powerful and strong. In the next game, we will be without Jon [Gaztanaga] and we will miss his strength in the middle,” said Annese. “The attitude and prospect of the team will remain the same. It is a big opportunity to play against such a big club with so many supporters. We need to focus on ourselves and not on the results of other teams,” he added.

The two sides have met 17 times in the Hero ISL. The home side have won eight games, while the Highlanders have won five, and four games have ended in draws. In the reverse fixture earlier this season, Mumbai City FC beat NorthEast United FC 3-1 in Guwahati.