ANI Photo | Indian Super League: Upbeat Punjab FC host in-form Mumbai City FC

Mumbai City FC will travel to take on Punjab FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi as the Matchweek 18 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 commences with the doubleheader on Saturday.
The Islanders are within touching distance from the top spot, currently at third place in the standings. With 32 points from 16 games, they will equal the top-placed Odisha FC (35), who solidified their hold over the pole position in the table with a 2-1 comeback win against East Bengal FC last evening. Mumbai City has won nine and drawn five matches and lost just two.
Regardless, the Petr Kratky-coached team has an inferior goal difference (13), as compared to Odisha FC (15), and hence their motive must be not only to win, but to win big at the home of the ISL debutants. But if form is anything to go by, then Punjab FC is no pushover anymore.
They have collected three wins in four matches since the resumption of the ISL after the mid-season break in January.
They have beaten Bengaluru FC, Kerala Blasters FC, and Hyderabad FC in the meantime, with their latest win against the Thangboi Singto-coached side coming with a clean sheet on the road.
The table dynamics are such that Punjab FC (17 points from 16 games) can level the sixth-placed Jamshedpur FC (20 points from 17 games) with a victory in this encounter.
Though they still would not break into the playoffs spots as the Red Miners (3) have a significantly better goal difference (-7) than Punjab FC, but it is still a good enough reason for the home side to not let their momentum slip away at this crucial juncture of the competition. Punjab has won four matches, drawn five and lost seven.
*Key Players to Watch Out
Madih Talal (Punjab FC)
The Frenchman has been central to helping Punjab FC make rapid strides this season.
Madih Talal has notched three goals and secured five assists in ISL 2023-24, making one of each in the previous clash against Hyderabad FC. Talal has created 36 goal-scoring opportunities in 16 ISL appearances, averaging 33 passes per game at 80 per cent accuracy.
His nimble footedness and crafty vision help him put incisive deliveries inside the box, which are pounced upon by the duo of strikers Wilmar Jordan Gil and Luka Majcen. He is averaging 3.9 dribbles per 90 minutes, only next to Noah Sadaoui (4.1) in the entire league.
Defensively, he has chipped in with seven interceptions, earning 47 fouls, and has been booked only once in the current campaign. He will be hopeful of keeping this momentum upbeat in the final six games of Punjab FC’s league run.
Vikram Partap Singh (Mumbai City FC)
Vikram Partap Singh has risen to the occasion amidst injuries and absences due to different reasons of his senior striking counterparts.
He has netted four times and assisted once in 15 appearances this season, averaging a goal contribution every 145.6 minutes in the ISL. He has scored thrice in his last three appearances, but his away record is something that he will want to fix.
Vikram has not found the back of the net in any of his previous eight away appearances. He has earned 12 fouls and taken 20 shots so far in the current campaign.
Lately, he has been consistently getting into goal-scoring positions, capitalising upon the chances created by his fellow forwards.
Head-to-Head
Played – 1
Punjab FC – 0
Mumbai City FC – 1
Draws – 0
*Team Talk
“(Madih) Talal is a high-quality player. It is very good for Indian football to have players like Talal, as they encourage other players to come to India at younger ages,” Punjab FC head coach Staikos Vergetis heaped praise on his star player as quoted by an ISL press release.
“We will approach this month just like we approach any other month. February was very good for us, after the Jamshedpur FC game, our team got together and performed very well. We just need to keep that up,” Mumbai City FC head coach Petr Kratky said in the pre-match press conference.

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