Bambolim (Goa), Feb 27 (IANS) The final match of the Indian Super League’s (ISL) group stage will also decide which team finishes on top of the points table as top-ranked ATK Mohun Bagan clash with second-placed Mumbai City at the GMC Stadium on Sunday.
Mumbai (37 points) need nothing less than a win while a draw would suffice for Bagan (40 points) as they chase the League Winners’ Shield and a spot in the 2022 AFC Champions League. A win is worth three points.
The two teams have kept themselves above the chasing pack for much of the season. While Mumbai City held a comfortable lead at the summit in the first half of the season, an unexpected slump since January saw them relinquish their position to Bagan.
Their downturn in form has led to Mumbai trailing Bagan by three points before Sunday’s match. However, the two teams remain level on goal difference, which means that a win will help Mumbai finish the season at the top of the table. Any other result will mean that ATK Mohun Bagan will keep their position.
Bagan had beaten Mumbai 1-0 the last time the two sides had met, with Bartholomew Ogbeche’s goal proving to be the difference.
“The first leg was another game (where) we won three points but tomorrow is a ‘final’. We need to play to win and we need to manage this situation well. It’s not like the games we played before because it’s not about just the three points, but to win a final,” said Mumbai coach Sergio Lobera.
The match will pit the best attack of the league against the best defence. Mumbai have scored 33 goals and boast the best conversion rate. Bagan, on the other hand, have been the best defence — conceding just 13 goals — alongside registering a league-high tally of 10 clean sheets.
“They have a very good defence and also a good balance between attack and defence,” said Lobera. “For us, it’s important to be loyal to our style of play and show passion in some moments during the game because it’s not easy to find spaces and have a lot of chances against them.”
Although a point may be enough for Bagan to finish at the top, coach Antonio Habas said his side won’t settle for anything less than a win.
“We have to be prepared to win, not to draw,” he said. “It’s a historic moment (if we qualify) but we have to play the match like another match. We play for three points. We have to be concentrated because we play a rival that is very difficult to attack.”