Last season, Mumbai City could only muster 23 points in 18 matches, winning only seven matches in the process. This season, Mumbai already surpassed last time's tally " 27 points in after 13 matches with eight victories and are currently second on the table. The last match, they handed table-toppers Bengaluru FC their first defeat in the season. Certainly, the team underwent a revival under head coach Jorge Costa, playing a pragmatic brand of football.
On Friday at the Mumbai Football Arena, Costa will be up against Sergio Lobera, who detests anything that his pragmatic on a football pitch and swears by his attacking philosophy. Lobera's FC Goa are relentless and a bit arrogant with their brand of football, but that doesn't translate into positive results. After 12 matches, they are placed fourth in the table with 21 points " six wins, three defeats and three draws. After 12 matches last season, they had 20 points with six victories. Improvement? Not much.
In an earlier game this season, Goa routed Mumbai 5-0 at their home. Since then, Mumbai changed things around, conceding just three in eight matches and not losing a game. Costa might not be thrusting for an act of Tarantino-esque revenge on Friday. He'll be aiming for a drama-less victory aided by a solid defensive display and counter-attacking their opponents. FC Goa will surely have their task cut out this time.
"Almost every game after the first leg clash with Goa, people ask me the same question and I give always the same answer. It was a bad day and I was not happy because we gave up very easily. Since then we are not the worst team in ISL nor are we the best team. We are just doing our job. Tomorrow (Friday) it is just another game against a very good team and we will fight to get three points," Costa said in the pre-match conference.
Mumbai executed their plans to perfection against Bengaluru FC, beating them 1-0 in their last game. Like Bengaluru, FC Goa will also depend a lot on their attacking players to get the job done and that's why they have to be wary of Mumbai and their counter-attacking prowess. The foreign players for Mumbai, the likes of Modou Sougou, Paulo Machado, Rafael Bastos, and Arnold Issoko have been influential for the team and Costa will once again bank on them to create opportunities.
The centre-back pairing of Lucian Goian and Anwar Ali did a wonderful job against Bengaluru and Costa should ideally not change it against Goa. Bengaluru didn't quite exploit the right side of Mumbai, which appears to be the weak link in the team. Souvik Chakraborty didn't appear to be in a good form last game and Goa should do well not making the same mistake as Bengaluru.
(The match, to be played at 7.30 pm, will be shown live on Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 Hindi HD, Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 HD, Stat Sports 3. Hotstar and Jio TV will also stream the match)
For FC Goa, the equation is simple. If they suffer a defeat against the Mumbai side, their chances of making it to the top-four will take a terrible hit. In their last match against Jamshedpur FC, they created quite a few opportunities, but did not find a way to score. It was a decent defensive display by Lobera's team, but lack of goals in a home match resulted in a goalless draw against a direct top-four rival. That means more pressure going into the match on Friday.
"It is true that we are right on the edge to make it to the top four. There are some teams who are coming from behind and they are pushing hard. It will be tough but we will do our best. We trust ourselves and we believe that we can do this and make it to the playoffs," Goa's assistant coach Jesus Tato said.
Lobera is adamant with his style of play so the team will go for an all-out attack against Mumbai, they desperately need those three points. It's unlikely that Lobera will change his attacking formation. The key player here is, of course, Ferran Corominas, who already has 10 goals to his name this season. Since last season, Corominas has been prolific with his goal-scoring and Lobera would be hoping that his forward will his best once again when they face Mumbai.
Apart from Coro, Edu Bedia has been a vital figure in the midfield for FC Goa. His creativity might prove to be the game-changer for the Goa team to break the sturdy defence of Mumbai. In the game against Jamshedpur, Bedia was dropped deep and created opportunities for his team. Hugo Boumous, Brandon Fernandes and Jackichand Singh will likely be the attacking trio, operating just behind Corominas. Lobera also has the option of new signing Zaid Krouch in the midfield.
With the kind of attacking players present in their ranks, Lobera would be hopeful of creating quite a few chances against Mumbai. But he would also be hoping that the team will convert the chances, unlike in the match against Jamshedpur. A victory for Costa's Mumbai City FC will virtually seal a spot in the top four while a defeat for FC Goa will make things more complicated for Lobera's side. The visiting team cannot afford to lose points from this match.