Mumbai City FC vs Chennaiyin FC (Photo: Twitter|ISL)
Mumbai: A place in the Indian Super League (ISL) playoffs is on the line as Mumbai City FC lock horns against Chennaiyin FC at the Mumbai Football Arena here on Friday. A win will ensure qualification for either side, making it a virtual do-or-die clash.
Mumbai City are placed fourth right now with 26 points from 17 matches and cannot afford any result other than a win against Owen Coyle's side who are fifth with 25 points.
However, even a draw will do for Chennaiyin FC who have played a game less than Mumbai. A win will definitely take Chennaiyin through, but a draw will also keep their fate in their own hands, with an away game against NorthEast United FC coming up next week. A loss will put Chennaiyin out of contention which raises the stakes further.
Odisha, placed sixth, will also be keen on the outcome of Friday's match with anything other than a draw set to knock them out. The advantage for Mumbai is the fact that they are playing at home. They have won their last three home matches and Jorge Costa will hope to make it four in a row on Friday.
In what is a huge boost to their chances, centre forward Amine Chermiti is back from suspension and will team up with Diego Carlos and Modou Sougou upfront. The pace of the front three will be crucial to Mumbai's gameplan as Costa relies on counter-attacks to hurt the opposition.
Nerijus Valskis and Rafael Crivellaro are the two most potent weapons that Chennaiyin have in their arsenal and Coyle will hope their guile and threat make the difference in what is their most important game of the season so far.
Interestingly, leading Chennaiyin's defence is former Mumbai captain Lucian Goian who would love to keep a clean-sheet against his former team. Chennaiyin are coming off a confidence-boosting 3-1 win over ATK in Kolkata and have the wind in their sails. The team is on a six-game unbeaten run and now stand on the cusp of qualification, something that looked unlikely when Coyle took over the side early December.
Mumbai, on the other hand, are coming off a loss to FC Goa but will do everything in their power to ensure Chennaiyin's remarkable turnaround does not have a fairy-tale ending.