Mumbai: Winless Mumbai Magicians will take on fourth-placed Uttar Pradesh Wizards in their third home game in the Hockey India League (HIL) at the MHA Mahindra Stadium here Wednesday. The first leg clash between these two bottom-placed teams, perhaps, offers the best chance for the struggling hosts to break their seven-game losing streak and increase their points tally to 12.
Their return leg is also scheduled at the same venue here on February 5. It has been a tough going for the Ric Charlesworth-coached Mumbai in the five-team league so far, first with four Pakistani recruits having to return home without playing a game and the new-look outfit wobbling its way. The latest loss, by 1-2 margin to Ranchi Rhinos in their away game yesterday, has dented their hopes of entering the semi-finals further.
However, Mumbai have picked up a point in each of their seven losses so far which has kept their chances alive, although by a narrow margin. "Although we have been trying really hard, we lose our games by a 1 or 2 goal margin. Our defence against Rhinos was much better and the team held the opposition at bay for a long period before they could break into our D," Charlesworth had said after the team's seventh straight defeat last night.
"The team is improving but have not made it to the winning mark yet," the Aussie added optimistically. But another defeat tomorrow would almost certainly put them out of reckoning for the last four berth as their nearest rivals UP would then boost their points tally to 22. The sole plus point for Mumbai has been the goal-scoring touch shown by star drag-flick Sandeep Singh who has scored the maximum number of goals (9) in the league so far.
But the Mumbai defence has been a bit weak and their forwards often lose their way nearing the rival 'D' or have been generally off the mark. UP would also be eager to clinch five points with a victory as that would push them closer to the last four. They have also depended a lot on their penalty corner expert V Raghunath for goals and the full back has notched up five so far - four short of his rival and India discard Sandeep.
For UP, South African Norris Jones Lloyd has been impressive up front with four field goals to his credit. The 25-year-old Cape Towner would be fancying his chances of increasing the tally against the none-too-strong Mumbai defence. The next two days would also test the fitness of the Mumbai team who would have travelled today from Ranchi to play over the next two days - first against UP and then against Jaypee Punjab Warriors on January 31.