Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], February 3 (ANI): The Mumbai Football Arena will set the stage for the high-octane clash between Mumbai City FC and Hyderabad FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Saturday.
The Islanders have a seven-point lead over the defending ISL champions at the top of the table with a game ahead and will look to march further towards clinching the ISL League Winners Shield without leaving it too late.
Mumbai City FC set a couple of new records last week after the 46th and 47th goals of the campaign. No other ISL side has scored more goals during the league stage before. The come-from-behind win over Jamshedpur FC also saw the Islanders set a new unbeaten streak record of 16 games, surpassing the previous record held by ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa.
Des Buckingham's men came close to losing a match for the first time this season against the Red Miners last week. However, two goals in the final ten minutes of the match in Jamshedpur added three more points to their prolific tally.
Lallianzuala Chhangte scored one and pocketed an assist for the other. The winger has now scored nine goals and registered five assists in 16 games. Mumbai City FC will be without key midfielder Ahmed Jahouh, who picked up his fourth yellow card of the season last week.
"This game is no more important than the 16 that have come before it and no less important than the three that will come after it. We always go game-by-game and get better after every game. When you lose players from what has been your starting XI for large periods of the season, they are missed. But we are not relying on one or two players this year," ISL.com quoted Buckingham as saying.
Buckingham was in attendance when Hyderabad FC were in action against East Bengal FC, before their break. The defending champions wrapped up another three points with a convincing 2-0 victory against the Torch Bearers. Now, Manolo Marquez's men will aim to bring the deficit down to four points with a game in hand.
Just like the Islanders, Hyderabad FC have been excellent down the flanks with Mohammad Yasir and Halicharan Narzary this season. However, Narzary's ill-timed injury has forced Marquez to play Rohit Danu on the left flank.
Surrounded by transfer speculation, Narzary has missed the last two games for the defending champions. The 28-year-old was on target when these two sides met in this season's opening fixture. There is uncertainty around his availability as Hyderabad FC gear up for what will be their biggest challenge so far this season.
"We will play against the best team with a great coach in the league. I have a very good relationship with him [Buckingham]. They have good foreign players and that always helps the Indian players to step up their game. They are a complete team with very few injuries. They make little to no changes to their starting lineup, which helps their consistency," said Manolo Marquez.
Three out of the seven ISL encounters between these two sides have ended in draws. Both sides have won two games each. The Islanders have not beaten Hyderabad FC in their last four attempts. (ANI)