A battle between two porous backlines is on the cards when Kerala Blasters visit Mumbai City. Despite contrasting results in their previous games against Pune and Chennaiyin respectively, a common feature on display was a rueful exhibition by either defence. David James, the goalkeeper-manager of the Kerala franchise, was shouting at his backline, painstakingly working hard to get his defenders to coordinate.
Kerala recorded their maiden win but the veteran Englishman was hardly impressed with his side’s performance. “That goal Pune scored shouldn’t have happened. How can a defense switch off completely for a set piece?” questions James ahead of Sunday’s clash at the DY Patil Stadium. As for the Mumbai team — which languishes in seventh-place in the eight-team competition — a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Chennai side explains a grim tale.
Preparation in the hosts’ camp, as explained by manager Peter Reid, has revolved around restructuring his defence. For starters, he mentions having adjusted the error-prone high backline employed in the defeat on Tuesday. “We’ve had a video session with our defenders where we studied each goal we conceded. So instead of talking, we wanted to show them the mistakes, and then rectify them in training,” explains Reid.
The drubbing in Chennai still fresh in his memory, Reid admitted that his side’s forward line and midfielders too had a share in the blame for the loss. Yet he asserted that the defensive errors were unforgivable. “A ball passed through the centre should never be allowed,” he added.
Nonetheless, looking toward the game against Kerala, who will travel to the city outskirts after having recently tasted victory and moving up to fifth in the standings, Reid’s backline will be buoyed by the return of Pavel Cmovš after he served his one-match suspension.
The midfield will still have to function without marquee player Fredrik Ljungberg, who has been side-lined for an expected four weeks after picking up a hamstring injury.
As for the forwards, star-striker Nicolas Anelka is revving to feature in his first game at home.