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Neymar to miss India trip for Mumbai City FC vs Al Hilal

The 31-year-old is set for surgery after tearing his ACL while in action with Brazil. Football fans in India will not have even a glimpse of Neymar facing Mumbai City FC in the next two fixtures for Al-Hilal in the AFC Champions League.

Last updated: 23.10.2023
Neymar to miss India trip for Mumbai City FC vs Al Hilal

Football fans in India will not have even a glimpse of Neymar facing Mumbai City FC in the next two fixtures for Al-Hilal in the AFC Champions League. The Brazilian suffered an ACL injury last week in the defeat to Uruguay potentially ruling him out for the entire season. Tests confirmed he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee. The player will go for surgery on a date yet to be confirmed but he could be back in time to play in the Copa America tournament for Brazil next summer held in the United States.

Neymar’s injury news will get most fans upset as probably this is the first time one of the world’s stars would have to come to India for a competitive clash against a club from the nation. Pele, Oliver Kahn and Lionel Messi came to play friendlies in Kolkata while other legends visited for other purposes during or post-playing days. Mumbai City did have several world stars playing for them before in the ISL but they have been stripped of this unmatched exciting prospect in facing the Brazilian superstar.    

Neymar not coming to India

The Islanders travel to Saudi Arabia for the first game against the last season’s finalists but it is the return leg in India that became the center of attention. The unprecedented trip of Neymar coming to the country was on everyone’s lips and Mumbai City FC even changed their venue for the right audience number specifically for this high-profile game in November. DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai was chosen to host it.

The official seating capacity of the stadium is 55000 although recent FIFA events have allowed 38,000 spectators which could be the same for the Al-Hilal game. Certainly appropriate for a match of this stature. However, the chance to see Neymar up close is now gone due to his season-ending injury. Undoubtedly, the Brazilian superstar was the main attraction of the game with ticket sales and the plan to have a large attendance could take a major hit now that he will not be coming to India.

Many have reportedly canceled or asked for a refund of their tickets for the game which is understandable. Even if people turn up to see the match which remain huge without Neymar, the attendance will not be as large as expected. The prices for the ticket are going to get hit as management has to lower their initial amount now. The hype around the match that could have drawn attention to Indian football, at least for the short-term, among the generally European football-loving fans will die down.

Also Read | Al-Hilal drawn with Mumbai City FC in the AFC Champions League                     


All in vain?

The absence of Neymar will surely take the shine of the match but Al Hilal still possess other top stars in the team who are appealing to football followers. After becoming one of the clubs to be taken over by the Saudi wealth fund PIF, the club has pulled out eye-catching deals including, of course, Neymar. The team has brought in World Cup star Morocco’s Yassine Bounou, Ruben Neves from Premier League side Wolves, Brazilian attacker Malcom, among Serie A’s top defenders and midfielders in Kalidou Koulibaly and Sergej Milinkovic Savic and Fulham’s lethal scorer Aleksandar Mitrović.

The former Barcelona and PSG forward not coming to India could also be a positive factor for Mumbai City FC. Fans attending the game will be in support of the team rather than getting drawn towards Neymar every time he touches the ball. There will be no personal support that the 31-year-old could have brought with him. Despite the other well-known names, Al-Hilal is unlikely to be people’s favourites and that will help Mumbai City feel more like home. Otherwise, the home match could have easily turned into an away trip.                       

Mumbai City FC AFC Champions League performance

Regardless, Mumbai City vastly need to improve on their performance in the AFC Champions League sitting bottom in their group with no points and no goals scored. The ISL Shield defenders lost 2-0 to Nassaji Mazandaran and 3-0 against Navbahor in the first two group-stage games. They now travel to Saudi Arabia for the gigantic battle against Al-Hilal hoping for a miracle.

A draw will be a big result for the Islanders in this clash drawing inspiration of what Navbahor did facing last season’s finalists away. Mumbai City also won their games last season in the AFC Champions League on Middle-Eastern soil. With another defeat, their hopes of making it to the next round is bleak and will put more strain on the side to produce a positive result in the reverse fixture back at home. Des Buckingham will not want his team to go on with the same dull tone being the last side from India to get a direct entry to the competition.

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