14:30 GMT, Thursday 22nd February, Mumbai Football Arena (Mumbai, India), Sab TV UK
Mumbai City currently sit seventh in the league and are six points off the pace if they want to pick up a playoff spot.
In their next match, they face the struggling Highlanders, led by Avram Grant, who’ll be eager to make a point against them.
In the three games remaining, Mumbai will face only one of the top-four contenders - Chennaiyin FC - with the rest of the matches coming against NorthEast United and Delhi Dynamos.
Winning their last encounter against ATK by a 2-1 margin, they will be eager to repeat the result in all the remaining fixtures.
Avram Grant hit out at the referees in his press conference after the match against Delhi Dynamos.
While the competition may be over for Grant, the preparation for the next season is just starting. Putting on an impressive display here could go a long way towards setting his side up for a good break.
Last Time Out
ATK 1-2 Mumbai City FC (Indian Super League)
The Islanders visited the defending champions in hopes of reviving their title challenge.
However, while the home side rallied to an attacking display in the first 20 minutes, their intensity fizzled out from there onwards as Mumbai City took advantage of the defensive frailties to fire home an opener through a fiery free-kick courtesy of Marcio Rozario.
The hosts attempted to equalise but failed to take advantage of a number of clear-cut chances. After the interval, though, Bipin Singh’s clinical finish eventually brought the teams back on parity.
Alexandre Guimaraes’s men were in line for redemption as Rafa Jorda put in a glancing header on Sanju Pradhan’s measured cross to reclaim the lead in the 53rd minute.
Mumbai kept knocking at ATK’s door but could not breach their defence for the third time, while the hosts lost their impetus from the first half and slumped to their fifth defeat in six matches.
NorthEast United 0-1 Kerala Blasters FC (Indian Super League)
An action-packed match between the Highlanders and the Blasters saw plenty of chances being created but only one goal being scored between the teams.
While Kerala looked more composed on the ball, NorthEast seemed to be the team with more attacking intent. However, gaps in the defence - especially while defending set-pieces - left them hanging.
Maic Sema, Danilo Lopes, Lalrindika Ralte all had shots on the target with Ralte even hitting the woodwork but NorthEast failed to find the back of the net.
A classic Wes Brown header from Jackichand Singh’s corner-kick saw the visitors take home the three points and consolidate their bid for a playoff spot.
Mumbai City FC Lineup
Guimaraes has yet to fix on his best eleven and has often used the 3-4-3 combination this term. After its success against ATK, it might make another appearance in the game against the Highlanders.
NorthEast United FC Lineup
John Mosquera is better suited for the number nine position than Danilo Lopes and despite Lopes’s work rate, his finishing abilities have often been questioned this season. Expect Mosquera to start ahead of his teammate.
Key Battle: Achille Emana (Mumbai City FC) vs Rowllin Borges (NorthEast United)
Achille Emana has been crucial for the Islanders this season and his versatility in attack and defence has helped the team perform when specialists were either injured or out serving a suspension.
The Cameroonian international has played in the playmaker role as well as in the holding midfielder role under Guimaraes and has performed admirably in both.
His ability to create opportunities is well-regarded given his four assists this season and has pitched in with a couple of goals as well.
He will be crucial for the home side to maintain possession in the midfield as well as create plays for the front three/four (depending on whether they play a 3-4-3 or a 4-2-3-1).
Tackling him at the opposite end of the pitch will be India’s home-grown talent, Rowllin Borges.
Borges has been the defensive screen for the team this season and constantly one of the top performers for the Highlanders.
He has been one of the reasons why they haven’t conceded more. His ability to distribute passes and put in tackles during the opposition build-up has been well recognised this season.
It’s all about damage control for the Highlanders
After missing out on the playoffs twice in the last three seasons the Highlanders are on track to finish their worst season till date.
Before this, their inaugural season saw them collect only 15 points in 14 games, but with 11 points in 16 fixtures this season they might finish with an even lower tally.
At this point, it’s all about damage control for the team as they recruitment in both the backroom staff and players have been called into question.
Grant’s arrival has helped them improve their performance, but their profligacy in the final third is yet to improve, which is why the team has been unable to win games, despite creating solid chances in every game.
Prediction: Mumbai City FC 1-0 NorthEast United FC
With Amrinder Sing between the posts, there are minimal chances for the Highlanders to find a win. Mumbai’s defence has persisted and should be able to keep out NorthEast’s out-of-form strikers.