Mumbai City will take on Bengaluru FC at the Mumbai Football Arena tomorrow night in the first leg of the Indian Super League semi-finals for the 2022-23 season. Sunil Chhetri’s men booked their berth in the semi-finals after a controversial turn of events in their playoff fixture against Kerala Blasters last week, with Ivan Vukomanovic pulling out his team from the field in mid-way through extra time.
Defending champions Hyderabad FC will face ATK Mohun Bagan on Thursday in Hyderabad, as Manolo Marquez looks to end the season with silverware. As the Indian Super League season reaches a conclusion, here’s a preview of the two semi-final fixtures:
Mumbai City vs Bengaluru
Mumbai City were the standout team in the current Indian Super League season, winning 14 out of 20 fixtures to finish at the top of the table and clinch the ISL League Shield. But back-to-back losses in their final two fixtures of the league stage will dent their confidence going into the semi-final, especially as their first defeat of the season came against Bengaluru last month.
With 11 goals and six assists in 18 fixtures, Jorge Diaz has been the leading goalscorer for the Islanders in an epic league-stage run in which they scored a whopping 54 goals. Lallianzuala Chhangte and Bipin Singh have been prolific on the field, adding 16 goals between them for the Islanders. The absence of Greg Stewart has been the main factor in Mumbai City’s back-to-back losses against Bengaluru and East Bengal last month, and the midfielder’s return will boost the team’s prospects in the semi-final.
Bengaluru FC qualified for the semi-finals after a controversial decision on the field by the referee led to an extraordinary walkout by Kerala Blasters last week. While the controversy about the referee’s decision and the actions on the field will take time to settle, Bengaluru have now extended their unbeaten streak to nine games. Simon Grayson has executed a perfect turnaround with Bengaluru, with the club rising from ninth spot mid-way through the season to finish fourth in the table.
Sunil Chhetri continues to be the leader for Bengaluru, but his goal-scoring abilities seem to have dried up. Instead, Bengaluru are now turning to the 22-year-old Sivasakthi Narayanan to find the back of the net. His combination with Javier Hernandez and Roy Krishna has been instrumental in Bengaluru’s incredible turnaround this season, and Simon Grayson will once again turn to the trio to do the bulk of the work tomorrow.
Mumbai City Predicted XI (4-3-3): Phurba Lachenpa, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy, Mehtab Singh, Mourtada Fall, Rahul Bheke, Lalengmawia Ralte, Ahmed Jahouh, Greg Steart, Bipin Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Jorge Diaz.
Bengaluru Predicted XI (3-4-1-2): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sandesh Jhingan, Bruno Silva, Aleksander Jovanovic, Prabir Das, Suresh Wangjam, Rohit Kumar, Roshan Naorem, Javi Hernandez, Roy Krishna, Sivasakthi Narayanan.
When To Watch: Tuesday, 7th March, 7:30 PM IST; Sunday, 12th Match 7:30 PM IST.
Hyderabad vs ATK Mohun Bagan
Defending champions Hyderabad will kickstart their campaign to retain the ISL trophy on Thursday, with thousands of home fans expected to attend the stadium to support their team. The Nizams sealed a second-place finish in the league stage after faltering mid-way through the season. Manolo Marquez’s efforts to build a solid defensive unit for the club have paid off, with the club conceding just 16 goals in 20 fixtures – the lowest of all clubs in the league. But they have struggled to keep up with the insane goal-scoring rate of Mumbai City, averaging just 1.8 goals per game by the end of the tournament.
Bartholomew Ogbeche has been the leading goal-scorer for the Nizams this season, scoring 10 goals in 19 fixtures. Hyderabad’s attacking unit is dominated by overseas players, with Javier Siverio and Borja Herrera being the other two top scorers of the club. Halicharan Narzary and Mohammad Yasir have been impressive from the wings, providing 10 assists between them.
ATK Mohun Bagan booked their berth in the semi-final after comprehensively defeating Odisha 2-0 in the playoffs, with Hugo Boumous and Dimitri Petratos scoring for the Kolkata-based side. After struggling to keep their spot in the top three in the final weeks of the league stage, the straightforward victory over Odisha will give a confidence boost to Juan Ferrando and the Mariners.
Encounters between both sides this season have been low-scoring affairs, with the Mariners defeating Hyderabad 1-0 at home back in November. The Nizams took revenge for the defeat with a 1-0 victory at home last month. Bartholomew Ogbeche scored four minutes before full-time in an intensely competitive fixture to secure three points for the defending champions. With a second meeting in just three weeks, both teams will know the other inside out, and the semi-final will likely be a close contest.
Hyderabad FC Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Gurmeet Singh, Nikhil Poojary, Odei Onaindia, Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra, Hitesh Sharma, Borja Herrera, Mohammad Yasir, Joel Chianese, Halicharan Narzary, Javier Siverio.
ATK Mohun Bagan Predicted XI (3-4-1-2): Vishal Kaith, Ashish Rai, Pritam Kotal, Slavko Damjanovic, Subhasish Bose, Carl McHugh, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Manvir Singh, Hugo Boumous, Ashique Kuruniyan, Dimitri Petratos.
When To Watch: Thursday, 9th March, 7:30 PM IST; Monday, 13th March, 7:30 PM IST.
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