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Sunday blockbuster as unbeaten Mumbai City FC host red-hot Kerala Blasters FC

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Mumbai City FC will face one of their toughest challenges in recent weeks when they host Kerala Blasters FC at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday to close off Matchweek 14 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23.

This will be a clash of the two in-form teams in the league. Mumbai City FC are yet to lose a game all season, sitting on seven-match winning streak and one win away from breaking the Hero ISL record for the most consecutive wins. Kerala Blasters FC, on the other hand, have been unbeaten in their last eight fixtures. Incidentally, the last time they lost was against Mumbai City FC in October at home.

The last five games involving these two sides have all had at least two goals, and none of those games have been draws, which all points to an end-to-end fixture involving some of the best attacking talent in the league.

Among that talent will be Mumbai City FC’s Indian wingers, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Bipin Singh, who were on the mark for the Islanders once again in the last Matchweek as they beat Odisha FC 4-2. Chhangte scored two goals and provided an assist, while Bipin found the back of the net on a night where Mumbai City FC dominated their game despite taking their talisman Greg Stewart off early. (Club statistics)

The Islanders have been averaging three goals per game after that result, and continue to be in a race at the top with Hyderabad FC, with a win in this game guaranteeing them first place with a two-point cushion. The two teams have kept up this pattern for over five weeks now, but the pressure to get three points might be a shade higher on Mumbai City FC this weekend given that a loss against Kerala Blasters would put them just two points clear of them.

Their head coach, Des Buckingham, was mostly focused on his own side when speaking in the pre-match press conference. “We don’t look at the opposition too much in terms of streaks – the same we don’t look at our own streak. I’ve spoken about making sure that we just focus on our own game, and preparing ourselves as well as we can to face what will be a very tough and challenging Kerala Blasters side,” he said.

Kerala Blasters have had an excellent comeback story so far this season. Having won the season opener, they fell to three straight defeats to find themselves hovering close to the bottom of the table. At that point, they had conceded ten goals in four games. Since then, they’ve conceded only five in eight games, and have been at their free-flowing best in attack. They’ve failed to win only once during this period.

Aside from a tightened defence, a lot of the Blasters’ success has come through the dynamic trio of Dimitrios Diamantakos, Ivan Kaliuzhnyi, and Sahal Abdul Samad, who have 13 goals between them so far. Given that their last fixture against Mumbai City FC was something of a turning point, they will be determined to set the record straight.

“I must be honest, as a coach I like to play these kinds of games. Even a long time ago as a player, I preferred to play these kinds of games. Because these kinds of games push you to show your best level. When you compete against the best teams, you want to be the best. And this is a game where the players will not lack motivation or energy. It’s something special. All the players and coaches must be happy to enjoy the chance to play this game,” said Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic.

The two sides have met each other 17 times in the Hero ISL previously, with Mumbai City FC winning seven times, the Blasters winning four times, and six games ending in draws. Last season, the Blasters did the double against Mumbai City FC.