Mumbai, Goa look to seize the initiative to realize their title dreams

Mumbai City FC host FC Goa at the Mumbai Football Arena on Saturday in the first leg of semi-final 2 of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19. The match will see two teams with contrasting philosophies lock horns in a bid to reach the final on March 17. While Sergio Lobera's Goa side are known for their high intensity, possession-based attacking style, Jorge Costa's Mumbai team excels in a more pragmatic approach focussed on counter-attacking.

Taking recent form in account, the Gaurs do come across as overwhelming favourites considering they won both their encounters against the Islanders in the league phase (5-0 at home, 2-0 away). However, in big matches like these, the past counts for little.

Mumbai City FC

The Islanders have qualified for the semi-finals for the second time in their history, after first making an appearance In this stage of the competition back in 2016. Mumbai finished third on this season's league table to take their place in the final four but the campaign has been far from smooth sailing for the Islanders.

The team made a poor start to their season and seemed to have hit rock bottom after suffering a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of FC Goa at the Fatorda. With critics writing them off for a place in the top four, head coach Jorge Costa rallied the team and turned Mumbai’s season on its head. The Islanders went on a club-record nine-match unbeaten streak that helped them bulldoze their way to the top part of the table. Interestingly, it was the Gaurs who would halt the run with a 2-0 win in Mumbai. The Gaurs have undoubtedly been Mumbai's bogey team this season and Costa may have to produce something tactically different to curb the trend on Saturday.

Whatever approach he adopts, the Mumbai defence, consisting of Lucian Goian, Subhasish Bose, Sauvik Charkrabarti, will need to be at their very best to keep out the Gaurs' famed forward line at bay. In midfield, Paulo Machado and Sehnaj Singh will need to be vigilant and not allow too much space for the likes of Edu Bedia and Ferran Corominas to operate in.

Up top, Mumbai's ace of spades will be star striker Modou Sougou's goal poaching abilities and Arnold Issoko’s relentless running, which could prove vital on Saturday. Sougou has already scored 12 goals this season, while Issoko has pitched in with three goals and six assists.

Here’s a look at Mumbai’s current season in numbers:

FC Goa

The Gaurs have arguably been the most consistent team in the competition since its inception back in 2014, having progressed to the semi-finals four times in the five seasons, but are without a title to show for it. Lobera will look to change that this season and if their recent performances are anything to go by, the Gaurs have a good chance to finally end their wait for the title.

A major reason behind the team's success this season has been the prolific form their talismanic striker Ferran Corominas, who tops the season's goal scoring charts. The striker has broken records left, right and center this season and recently became the all-time top-scorer in the league’s history. However, Coro isn't the only goal threat in Lobera's armoury. The likes of Edu Bedia, Hugo Boumous and Jackichand Singh has also pitched in with the goal scoring whenever needed.

Ahmed Jahouh and Lenny Rodrigues are most likely to be tasked with controlling the tempo of the match from the middle of the park. Jahouh, in particular, has arguably been the best midfielder in the league this season and his ability to turn defence into attacks with his pinpoint long balls will keep the Mumbai defence on its toes.

While the Gaurs have always been potent going forward in the past, a somewhat lacklustre defence has let them down in the past. However, that trend seems to have changed in the second half of the campaign under Lobera as the Goa backline kept six clean sheets in their last seven matches of the league stage. This new-found defensive acumen may just be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Gaurs in their quest for the Hero ISL title. Led by the centre-back pairing of Mourtada Fall and Carlos Pena, the Gaurs defence will be a hard wall to crack for Mumbai on Saturday.

Here’s a look at Goa’s current season in numbers:

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:

Mumbai City FC: Amrinder Singh (GK), Sauvik Chakrabarti, Lucian Goian, Anwar Ali, Subhasish Bose, Arnold Issoko, Raynier Fernandes, Sehnaj Singh, Paulo Machado (C), Modou Sougou, Rafael Bastos

FC Goa: Naveen Kumar, Seriton Fernandes, Mourtada Fall, Carlos Pena, Mandar Rao Dessai (C), Ahmed Jahouh, Lenny Rodrigues, Jackichand Singh, Edu Bedia, Brandon Fernandes, Ferran Corominas

DID YOU KNOW?

  • FC Goa have scored 19 goals and conceded just 8 in their 10 meetings against Mumbai.
  • Mumbai have scored 52% of their goals this season in the first half.
  • Mumbai have kept five clean sheets this season, five of which were at home.

FANSPEAK

Which striker will have the biggest impact on the match?

  • Modou Sougou
  • Ferran Corominas

Have your say in the comments section below.

Catch the match live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV at 7.30 PM.

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