Mumbai, Bengaluru Eye Three Points as Top-four Battle Intensifies

Mumbai, Jan 16 (PTI) Mumbai City face defending champions Bengaluru FC here on Friday in their quest to claim a top-four spot in the Indian Super League.

After their back-to-back 0-2 defeats against ATK and Odisha FC, Mumbai City have given themselves plenty of work to do to regain their claim for the playoffs.

They are fifth on the table with 16 points and have a game in hand over fourth-placed Odisha, who have 21 points. Bengaluru have 22 points and are placed second.

Bengaluru bounced back after their narrow defeat against ATK by claiming three points against FC Goa and Jamshedpur FC. Sunil Chhetri has scored three goals in their last two matches and a total of eight goals this season.

Midfielder Erik Paartalu is in excellent form for the Blues with two goals and four assists so far and Dimas Delgado leads the chart for most number of passes this season. New signing striker Deshorn Brown will be available for selection for the visitors.

When the two teams met earlier this season, Mumbai City were the 3-2 victors.

"Mumbai is a team that makes things difficult for us. They are a counter-attacking team. They pump long balls forward. You need to score first. If they score first, then they will wait and go only in counters. So, we will try and score first," Bengaluru head coach Carles Cuadrat said.

"The league situation can change very fast. ATK looked good and now they have lost two matches. Odisha has suddenly started to improve. We have six games to play and if we are in a good dynamic we can be in the playoffs. They are going to try and start on a good note for sure."

Having lost Paulo Machado to a long-term injury, Mumbai City will look to mix up his options in midfield to find a creative spark that can unlock the difficult defence of Bengaluru.

Amine Chermiti and Modou Sougou have six goals combined and the service from the midfield has been sub-par. Jorge Costa's team has tried to use the flanks to good effect but overall, Mumbai City's display in their last game against Odisha left a lot to be desired.

"It's true that we lost the last two games. We didn't deserve to lose against ATK and the last game against Odisha was probably our worst game in the one and a half years that I'm here. It's difficult for me. I can't explain what happened in the last game," Costa said.

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