Ahead of the final, Lobera wants players to keep sticking to Mumbai City FC’s style of play

After clinching the League Winners Shield in the last game of the league stage, Mumbai City will be eyeing more silverware when they take on ATK Mohun Bagan in the final of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa on Saturday. The Islanders beat the Mariners in both their league stage matches but will be wary of the threat that the Kolkata giants possess.

Mumbai City FC’s head coach Sergio Lobera is well-aware of the danger that ATK Mohun Bagan possess, and he stressed the need to be competitive while addressing why his team have been slightly more pragmatic in their approach in the last couple of games. “We need to know, to compete well against the very good teams, we need to be ready when it is not possible to manage the game, to have control because the opponent team is playing really well. But the most important thing is to be compact, to be working as a team and with the same idea come back to the game with our style of play,” he said at the pre-match press conference.

“Sometimes it’s not possible and the most important thing is to work towards the collective idea and compete very well. I think we were a very competitive team in the last game and if you want to win trophies, you need to be competitive. It’s not only about the situation during the game you are playing well, it’s also about how to manage the opponent team in their moments,” Lobera added.

The Spaniard expects his players to stay true to their principles against ATK Mohun Bagan. "We know that they are a very good team with very good players in good momentum, but the most important thing is to put focus on ourselves. We need to work 100 per cent [believing] in our style of play and our idea," Lobera said.

He then expressed his delight with the domestic talent at his disposal this season before declaring that it’s nigh impossible to win anything in the Hero ISL without quality Indian players. “I am very happy about the level of Indian players we have in our squad. It’s impossible to win trophies, to win the league, finish at the top of the table without very good level in Indian players,” he said.  

“…You can win games but it’s impossible to finish at the top of the table or to reach the final. I am very happy with the level of my Indian players and with their improvement. I’m very happy we can have more players in the national team. They are very good players and help us to achieve our targets. The first target for me as a coach is to try to improve the level of Indian players, give them the opportunities to show everyone their quality and I am very happy about this with my team,” he added.

When asked how impressive his first season with Mumbai City FC is considering the influx of new players, Lobera said: “We brought 17 new players to the team. It was difficult to implement a new style in a very short period of time. But they did well to adapt. It was more difficult this season as we had very little time before the league started. Then the gap between each match was also very less. What we did was use videos during the training sessions. I’m happy that the players managed to overcome the challenge.”

While discussing the pressure that’s associated with managing Mumbai City FC, Lobera said: “There is always pressure. But I accept it. I need this pressure as a coach and enjoy it. I don’t like to work in a place where there is no pressure because it means maybe you do not have enough level in your squad to try to achieve big targets. I knew when I had the first meeting in Manchester with the City Football Group (CFG) that this is a big, big project and I accepted this challenge.”

Lobera also insisted that he’s proud of his players irrespective of the outcome of Saturday’s final. “I am very happy about the situation. Hopefully, after Saturday’s game, it’s possible to achieve the trophy. But, if it’s not possible, I am very proud of my players,” the 44-year-old said.

The Spanish head coach was joined by Mumbai City FC’s skipper and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh at the press conference, and the Indian custodian described how he’s adjusted to Lobera’s brand of possession-based passing football. “If you see, around five years ago this style was not there in India. When I was under [Albert] Roca sir, I had some issues playing this way at Bengaluru FC. There, I had improved myself in this style. When Lobera sir came to Mumbai City FC, I had an idea of what was needed to be done. I had seen his matches and knew what he wanted, how he wanted to play,” the 27-year-old said.

“Of course, I think it was difficult, but I have adapted to his style and demands in different moments very well. It’s difficult for a goalkeeper, but if you train and understand the coach’s demands well, then nothing is difficult in football. I think his style to play from the back, build up from the back is most important. I gradually started relishing this and gained confidence,” he added.  

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