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ISL 2020-21 Play-offs | Mumbai City FC vs FC Goa - Preview

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Alberto Noguera (right) has the most assists in 2020-21 Indian Super League

ISL

ISL 2020-21 Play-offs | Mumbai City FC vs FC Goa - Preview

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sounak mullick

03/04/2021

Mumbai City FC are set to lock horns with their cross-border rivals FC Goa in a two-legged semi-final on March 5 and March 8 respectively. While the players go through their drills, let’s have a look at what we might expect from the two teams - their strengths, weaknesses, and key players.

Mumbai City FC

Where do they have an edge?

We can start from anywhere and have no end to it, with Mumbai City FC being the ‘team built for the kill’ this season, backed by foreign investors. When Sergio Lobera handpicked his most loyal students from the institution that united them, everyone knew he was a man on a mission, but with the same approach. Yet, no one has been able to crack the ‘Lobera’ code. While Hugo Bomous, Adam Le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche were enough to tame any competitor on a certain day, Bipin Singh and Cy Goddard came out of the syllabus for other sides. No doubt that their fierce attacking line-up holds the key to the fortunes in the upcoming semi-finals against FC Goa - a team which were some of their core players featured in the previous season.

It would be criminal not to mention about the backbone of Mumbai City FC’s midfield - Ahmed Jahouh, arguably the most effective footballer in the Indian Super League and the building block of all attacks for the ‘Islanders.’ Meanwhile, Raynier Fernandes and Rowlin Borges have enough in them to support the ‘gladiator.’ On the other hand, Mourtada Fall has been everywhere around the field, scoring goals, winning aerial duels. Is there anything the Senegalese cannot do? A brew of the best ingredients - Mumbai City FC are eyeing no less than their first ISL title, having already booked a ticket to the AFC Champions League.

Where are they lacking?

The only position where Mumbai City FC have been a shade dull compared to other departments - side-back. The fact that they are going to miss the likes of Amey Ranawade due to suspension in the first-leg, which might pose a threat, with no proper back-ups, apart from the misfiring Mandar Rao Desai to pitch in for the lack of experience. Meanwhile, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy is new to the trade, so it’s not possible how he is going to fare in the high-voltage clash.

Adam le Fondre (centre) has scored 11 goals for Mumbai City FC this season  © ISL

Men who matter

Hugo Boumous

Even after missing seven matches in the ongoing edition of the ISL, the French footballer is still the most influential footballer for his club. With seven assists (second-most this season by any player) and a couple of goals to his name, there’s no way his former employers are skipping a beat to tackle him this Friday evening. The ability to control space, release the ball in time and the penchant to find his target man has made Hugo the most dynamic player in the entire tournament. With an average of 56.69 passes per game with an accuracy of 72.59% proves how he’s owned whenever the playmaker featured for his side. One assist and a goal to his name in their last match against FC Goa would encourage him a lot, especially with him out of action for the last four matches owing to suspension issues.

Ahmed Jahouh

If Hugo Boumous was all about attacks, Ahmed Jahouh constructed each of them from the central midfield position. The Moroccan makes passing look like fun, with an average of over 75 passes per game, with an accuracy of 76.67%. Yeah, you read that right. Most importantly, he can repeat the same for the entire 90 minutes and still have enough time to block the opposition from invading their territory. The 144 tackles - the most by any player in the ISL this season, just documents the above-mentioned claim. Jahouh is the main link from the forwards to the defensive block and the glue that binds the team together. Calm and composed, he is a silent killer who makes Mumbai City FC the smooth functioning unit that we’ve known so far. Jahouh is a few steps away from guiding his side to a maiden ISL title.

FC Goa 

Where do they have an edge?

Unlike Mumbai City FC, where gifted players form the core bunch, with some of them playing amongst themselves during the previous stint, FC Goa was a team under construction when the season began. Fortunately, the hard-working unit established itself as a force to reckon with. Juan Ferrando's bunch do not have the quality to play eye-pleasing football, but the hard-work put in by the players often squeezes out the desired results. The stalemate against Hyderabad FC exactly proved why they have a solution to every situation and their adaptability in tandem to the task at hand.

Apart from the prolific acts put together by Alberto Noguera and Edu Bedia in the playmaking zone, Jorge Ortiz and Igor Angulo have been stalwarts when it comes to scoring goals. Even though Mumbai City FC will have remedies for the duo, FC Goa can easily use their speedy wingers to penetrate in the final third, with the ‘islanders’ set to miss the services of Amey Ranawade in the first-leg at least owing to suspension issues. With the reserve side-backs relatively inexperienced or out of form, the ‘Gaurs’ would exploit the particular area with the young legs of Alexander Romario Jesuraj and Redeem Tlang.

Where are they lacking?

With a relatively inexperienced back-four, the defence might be the weak link that can make the difference this Friday evening. While Adil Khan has been imported midway through the season, Ivan Gonzalez has been the only mainstay in the zone, with James Donachie playing supporting act. The fact that they have conceded 23 goals - the second most of the top six teams in the league stage, proves that a leak has to be made up for when Ferrando’s side take the field this week, against the best forward line in the Indian Super League.

Alberto Noguera (centre) and Jorge Ortiz (right) have been pivotal for FC Goa this season © ISL

Men who matter

Alberto Noguera 

Playing as a false ‘9’ can be tricky at times, especially in Indian football, where many many coaches are skeptical to divert from traditional formations. Juan Ferrando - a progressive coach with an excellent ability to read the game, has pulled off a master-class by deputing Alberto Noguera behind Igor Angluo - in the hole. With eight assists from 19 matches and a lone strike to his name, the Spanish has made a name for himself, going along with the mix of over 51 passes per game at an accuracy of 74.13%. He often drops back from his position and helps out the holding midfielders and build the attack thereon. There’s no way Mumbai City FC can ignore the Noguera-threat in the second-leg (he will miss Friday's game due to suspension issues), even after possessing Mourtada Fall and Hernan at the heart of the defence. 

Ishan Pandita

Albeit most of you have already started to question this particular pick, but believe me, the youngster has been a man for the occasion and without him FC Goa wouldn’t have qualified for the playoffs either. The super-sub may have played just 54 minutes in the tournament, but has been enough to show that he’s gifted with an ability to change the tide of the game within seconds, having scored four late goals (all after the 83rd minute and as a substitute). The majority of the players are more experienced than him, but Juan Ferrando’s trump card has worked wonders for him so far and with a match as big as this, fortune might favour the brave. It was Pandita’s late equaliser that held the ‘Gaurs’ salvage a point during their last meeting against Mumbai City FC. Can he pull-off another coup? We’ll have to wait and see.

Fixtures for the semi-finals:

Leg-1 

FC Goa vs Mumbai City FC 

Date: 05-03-2021

Venue: Fatorda Stadium, Goa

Time: 7:30 P.M

Leg-2

Mumbai City FC vs FC Goa 

Date: 08-03-2021

Venue: GMC Stadium, Bambolin, Goa

Time: 7:30 P.M

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