Shillong, Jan 9 It is not going to be an easy task for Mumbai FC as they take on Shillong Lajong in their opening fixture of the I-League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Sunday evening. More so, as they might miss their captain Taisuke Matsugae.
The Mumbai side, who ended last season with two successive wins against East Bengal and Bharat FC, now defunct, would like to continue their winning form. That would certainly boost their confidence and help them try and win the championship or at least improve on last year's sixth place finish, which was their best performance yet.
Mumbai FC, the lone club from the city challenging for top honours in the country's premier football competition, are aware that the cooler climate conditions would make it tough for them, but at the same time are confident of starting the season on a bright, positive note.
“It's not going be an easy match as Shillong definitely have the home advantage. The chilly weather would also suit them but our boys are coping well and should be able to adjust. That is not much of a worry as it is always better to perform well in cooler conditions rather than the heat,” Mumbai FC manager Henry Picardo said.
Taisuke down with fever but could recover in time for game: Mumbai manager Picardo
The manager mentioned that the only concern at the moment for coach Khalid Jamil is that captain Taisuke Matsugae is a bit unwell.
“Taisuke is down with fever which is a bit of a worry. But there are chances that he will recover fully by Sunday afternoon.
“We will check if he is strong enough for the tough grind, otherwise he will not be included for the game,” added Picardo.
New recruits, international Arata Izumi, Liberian Eric Brown along with seasoned stars Steven Dias and NP Pradeep will have to share the responsibility of marshalling the midfield. They will have to play a crucial role to create openings for strikers Jayesh Rane and Sushil Kumar to hit the target and also try to bolster the defence.
Mumbai FC's tried and trusted defenders Ashutosh Mehta and Allan Dias will have to show good understanding with new signings – North Korean Min Chol Son, Pratik Chowdhary and Rammu Srikant – to build a formidable fortress at the back and thwart the Shillong attack, spearheaded by the lethal Nigerian Penn Orji.
The backline will not have an easy time as the home side will keep pushing forward and try to maintain the winning momentum against Mumbai. Shillong had defeated Mumbai 1-0 in the home tie and later completely destroyed them in their own den, winning by a convincing 6-0 margin at the Cooperage Ground.
The custodians, either Sanjiban Ghosh or Pawan Kumar, will have to show plenty of alertness and be extra cautions to stop the rivals from finding the net.