Match 4 Preview: Mumbai City FC begin title defence with stern FC Goa test
Defending champions Mumbai City FC will begin their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 campaign against west-coast rivals FC Goa at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Margao, on Monday.
Despite losing a few of its core players from the triumphant side last season, the Islanders have one of the most balanced sides in the league. But that quality will be challenged by the stability of FC Goa who have stuck to a philosophy and a lot of players from last season under coach Ferrando.
Like on most occasions when these two clubs meet, a mouth-watering contest is on the cards.
Mumbai City FC
In the last five matches, Mumbai City FC won three and shared the spoils in the remainder, which also includes the ISL final last term. Following their historic season, in which they claimed the League Winners Shield and the league title, the Islanders have hardly played competitive football. However, the Des Buckingham led squad remained unbeaten in the three pre-season matches, with a win over Hyderabad FC and playing out draws in the other two, against Odisha FC and SC East Bengal.
FC Goa have emerged victorious in each of their last five competitive matches, en-route to their 2021 Durand Cup win, in Kolkata, earlier this year. The Gaurs finished in fourth spot in the league table last season, having won seven matches, losing on three occasions and sharing points in 10 of the remaining matches to qualify for the semi-finals. It was incidentally against Mumbai City FC that the Juan Ferrando-led side lost over a two-legged semi-final and crashed out of the title race.
Head to Head Stats
Both the teams have played 18 matches amongst themselves so far, with FC Goa leading the head to head count with seven wins. The Islanders have won five, while they’ve shared the honours in the remaining six occasions.
Mumbai City FC have lost just one out of their last five matches against FC Goa. However, both the teams played out goalless draws in each leg of the semi-finals last season, with the Islanders sneaking into the final via a penalty shootout. The last time FC Goa defeated their rivals was back on February 12, 2020, when the match ended 5-2 in favour of the Gaurs.
Mumbai City FC
Apart from a few departures in the foreign department, Mumbai City FC have been able to retain most of its core players. Moroccan playmaker Hugo Boumous, strikers Bartholomew Ogbeche and Adam le Fondre - who were all actively involved in the title win last year, are missing from the dugout. To tape the leak in the attacking zone, last year’s golden boot winner Igor Angulo has been roped in, while Australian midfielder Brad Inman is another major signing.
Among other imports, Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Cassio and compatriot Ygor Catatau would be making their debut in the ISL. Usual suspects like Ahmed Jahouh and Mourtada Fall are set to spearhead the central midfield and the central defence respectively. It’s the Indian contingent that Mumbai City would rely on to make the difference, with exciting players like Bipin Singh, Mandar Rao Desai, Lalengmawia, Vikram Partap Singh - all in the fray.
The most significant change in the technical area - head coach Sergio Lobera’s exit. Former Wellington Phoenix FC coach Buckingham has been handed the responsibility ahead of the new season. With already a strong squad at his disposal, the onus is on the Englishman to deliver the goods and kick-start their title defence with a win, on Monday.
Without doubt, FC Goa is the most settled team going into the new season of the Hero ISL. Having retained most of their players and having had a cracker of a pre-season, where the side claimed first Durand Cup title, the Gaurs are ready for the showdown. Not to forget the spirited show in the 2021 AFC Champions League. It’s just the departures of Spanish striker Igor Angulo and custodian Mohammad Nawaz that would irk manager Ferrando. Apart from which, the squad looks solid!
The Gaurs boast of a vast and versatile midfield with a mix of players who can play possession football as well as build-up the play quick and fast towards the final third area. Edu Bedia, their most capped foreigner ever, will hold the cards in the playmaking zone. Even if Alberto Noguera is absent owing to the foreign-quota constraints, there would be ample domestic players to support Bedia. The presence of Glan Martins, Brandon Fernandes and Princeton Rebello will ensure that the Gaurs will never lack creativity.
Young and speedy wingers like Redeem Tlang will add the extra punch in the attack, giving strikers Jorge Ortiz and Airam Cabrera some space for them to operate inside the box. Most importantly, the eyes would be on young players like Saviour Gama, Muhammed Nemil and Devendra Murgaonkar, who have shown promise, but are yet to unleash their full potential.
Mumbai City FC
Vikram Partap Singh
The young striker played a shade less than 100 minutes across 11 matches in the last season for Mumbai City FC, during which he failed to make a mark. However, with the new foreign policy in place, Singh is likely to be in action for longer spells. Especially, after his impressive performance for the Indian side in a historic win over Oman in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The well-built defender is already a veteran in the ISL, having played three seasons so far. Fall is a stalwart in the central defensive area, usually giving a hard time to the forwards. With a team like FC Goa upfront, which plays an attacking brand of football, Fall’s services would be crucial for the Islanders.
The 23-year old made his ISL debut last season, having made 13 appearances, with a goal to his name. With him the lone specialist Indian striker in the squad, a lot is expected from Devendra in the upcoming season. As for the records, he’s been in great touch, having been the joint top-scorer in FC Goa’s 2021 Durand Cup winning campaign, earlier this year.
One of the most experienced foreigners in the history of the ISL, Bedia has been the man for all seasons for the Gaurs. Having played most of those matches in the Fatorda Stadium itself, it gives him a head start for the upcoming game and the rest of the season as well. If FC Goa are aiming for a win against the title holders, Bedia must deliver the goods.
Mumbai City FC at the Fatorda Stadium: The Islanders played five matches at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium last season and were unbeaten throughout, having won four and drawing the other.
FC Goa’s goal rush: The Gaurs have scored 38 goals against Mumbai City FC in head to head matches, which is the most number of goals they’ve scored against any team in the ISL. It is also the highest any team has scored against any opposition in the history of the league.
FC Goa’s exploits against Mumbai City FC: The Islanders’ worst three defeats in their ISL history have come against the Gaurs, which includes a 0-7 loss in November 2015, 0-5 loss in October 18 and 1-5 loss in March 2019.
Match Timings and Telecast Details
Match: Mumbai City FC vs FC Goa
Date: 22 November
Venue: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Margao, Goa
Kick-off time: 7.30 pm
Telecast: Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 3, Hindi Commentary on Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 Hindi HD, Star Sports 1 regional channels - Tamil, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu
Online Streaming: Disney+Hotstar and JioTV.