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JFC, Mumbai can’t afford slip-ups in top-four race
With just one win in its last six matches, Jamshedpur FC will be desperate to pick up three points when it hosts Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League clash at the JRD Tata Sports Complex here on Thursday.
Antonio Iriondo’s side started the season well, registering two back-to-back wins. 26-year-old Spanish striker Sergio Castel and midfielder Francisco Luna (Piti) starred for the Men of Steel early with vital and equally impressive contributions from the Indian contingent. However, its form has dipped in recent weeks and the last three matches ended in draws, something Iriondo will be concerned about.
“We have tried all the strikers in the squad in the last matches. Some of them are in the starting XI or some of them have come off from the bench, but all of them have played matches. You have to think more than just scoring goals when you make the squad. You not only talk about the offensive part of the game, but you also talk about the defense,” said Iriondo.
The team suffered a huge setback when Castel and Piti were ruled out of action. Piti returned to action in the team’s 2-2 draw against Kerala Blasters in Kochi last week, but Castel continues to be sidelined. Moreover, midfielder Noe Acosta will also miss a few games after being injured.
Jamshedpur has conceded late goals from winning positions twice in the last three games, against Kerala Blasters (2-2) and NorthEast United (1-1). Mumbai City, which has scored six goals in the last 15 minutes of games this season, will look to capitalise on Jamshedpur’s inability to close out games.
“I think it (conceding late) is more about pressure. In the last minutes, you try to maintain the scoreline, if your team is winning. Then sometimes the team is struggling to keep up with the pressure. But it happens and we are not worried. It is happening not only to us but is a regular occurrence in the league. We have to learn to handle the pressure - not only us but all the teams. Experienced players come in handy during these situations,” said Iriondo.
Jorge Costa and his squad will be high on morale on its way to Jamshedpur. After three back-to-back draws, Mumbai picked up its second win against defending champion Bengaluru FC on Sunday and it was a solid display at both ends. They fought till the end and a late injury-time winner from Rowllin Borges handed them all three points.
“Of course, we feel more confident. Not because we beat Bengaluru but we need the three points to be in the top four. It is very good to see that the team is performing well but the most important thing is to pick up three points. We are a step closer to the top four. We did it in the previous game and we are here to do it tomorrow,” said Costa.
Costa’s team has managed to be a force to be reckoned with from wide areas with Diego Carlos starting to find his feet on the flanks. Last season’s star Modou Sougou is yet to find form but new signing Amine Chermiti has hit the ground running in front of goal and is a dangerous presence inside the box.
The Islanders’ defence will be a matter of concern for Costa. It has conceded 15 goals from its last six games this season after starting off with two clean sheets. Mato Grgic and Co. need to step its game up, and quickly.
Mumbai City has developed a reputation as a great away side this season, garnering nine out of its 10 points from its travels - the best away record in ISL this season. However, Jamshedpur has never lost at home this season and also has never lost to Mumbai.