Mumbai City captain and marquee player Diego Forlan, who was influential in his team’s first two victories, sat out of the last clash against NorthEast United FC and has not made the trip to Kerala.
“Diego hasn't traveled with the team. He is working hard on his recovery with our medical staff and we hope that we can have him back fully fit at the earliest,” said Mumbai City coach Alexandre Guimaraes.
Kerala Blasters have worries of their own. Cedric Hengbart, who captained the side in the last game but limped out midway through injury, has a battle on his hand to recover and declare himself fit for the crucial clash against Mumbai City.
“I don’t know to be honest,” Kerala Blasters coach Steve Coppell said when asked whether he can count on Hengbart’s services for Friday’s clash.
“We will wait till the last minute to check his fitness. After the injury (in the last game), I thought he wouldn’t be available but he is such a warrior that he is working hard, rehabilitating and trying to make himself available for this match,” said the Kerala Blasters coach.
Fortunately for the home side, marquee player Aaron Hughes, a sparkling presence in Northern Ireland's progress to the second round of Euro 2016, has completed his international assignments and is expected to return to the line-up.
Kerala Blasters have just a point from their first three matches and is the only team in the league to have not scored as yet, despite backing from approximately 55,000 supporters for each home game. Coppell said his players are trying hard and a change in fortunes could be just around the corner.
“The players fully understand the responsibility of trying to entertain these fabulous fans and the players went flat out to try and give them the victory that they desire. I personally feel we are very close (to winning). As a team, we are capable of winning five or six matches on the bounce,” said Coppell.
Mumbai City FC have made an encouraging start to their league campaign this season. Yet unbeaten, Mumbai City have seven points from their first three matches and even though coach Guimaraes said he was targeting “nine points” from the first three matches, he has plenty to be happy about.
“I would have liked to have nine points and I think we played with the intention of getting maximum points. But that's how the game is. More than the points, what needs to be focused on is the performance. Our efforts from our pre-season training are now showing results and I am very happy,” said the Costa Rican coach.
Mumbai City FC played all three matches at comparatively smaller stadiums in Pune and Mumbai and now have to prepare themselves for a massive fan onslaught in Kerala where 55,000 supporters throw their collective might behind Kerala Blasters. The Costa Rican coach is aware of the challenge.
“It's the first time we'll be playing in these kind of circumstances but my players have shown confidence and I am hoping we put up an equally good, if not better performance tomorrow against Kerala Blasters,” he said.