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ISL 4: Mumbai in must-win situation against laggards NorthEast United

Lucian Goian (Image: Facebook)

Mumbai: Mumbai City FC are not losing hope despite having a relatively less chance of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Indian Super League. The team that topped the league stage last season is placed seventh at the moment.

The ‘Islanders’ can reach a maximum of 29 points, provided they win their remaining three matches. Mathematically, that should be enough for them to qualify, if others above them like FC Goa, Kerala Blasters, Jamshedpur FC and Chennaiyin FC all drop points at some stage. It’s a possibility and Mumbai City are keen to play their role well, starting with a clash against NorthEast United FC at Mumbai Football Arena, Mumbai, on Thursday.

“It’s good to be alive. We come here knowing that we have a chance and that we have to play better to try and win tomorrow against a team who have played well but didn’t have the luck to get better results. I also hope that tomorrow, finally, we can win a game at home which for us, besides the importance to continue the fight, should be a good present for our fans,” Mumbai coach Alexandre Guimaraes said during the pre-match media interaction.

They have lost four successive matches at home and after successive losses against Jamshedpur FC and FC Pune City, it seemed as if Mumbai had bid their chances goodbye. Their fortunes changed after an away win against ATK in the last game which kept them alive.

“The pressure will be higher if we coaches don’t see that our team is playing well, or the players are not doing what we ask them to do. In my case, I would be much more worried,” said the Costa Rican coach.

Regardless of what happens till the end of the league phase, NorthEast United will finish among the bottom three. They are placed ninth with 11 points from 16 matches and can reach a maximum of 17 points, which won’t be enough to climb higher up the ladder since seventh-placed Mumbai City are already on 20 points. The Highlanders though will want to avoid finishing at the bottom like the inaugural edition in 2014.

“It’s difficult to prepare for a game where we cannot qualify. Difficult to motivate but at the same time, we didn’t have issues regarding that,” said NEUFC assistant coach Elco Schattorie.

The bigger problem for NorthEast United is injuries with several players set to miss the game. Schattorie said injured striker Marcinho is “definitely not playing” while there are question marks over the fitness of central defenders Jose Goncalves and Sambinha, besides Holicharan Narzary.

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