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Football

Updated on: Sunday, November 21, 2021, 09:18 PM IST

ISL 2021-22: Well-prepared Mumbai City FC take on confident FC Goa in season opener

FC Goa would look to avenge their semi-final loss in ISL 2020-21 against defending champions Mumbai City FC in their first games of the season
Mumbai City FC during their pre-tournament training session. | Photo: Mumbai City FC

Mumbai City FC during their pre-tournament training session. | Photo: Mumbai City FC

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There’s always pressure when it’s your first game as a new coach of a team. And if your team are defending champions of the league, there’s double the pressure. Add this to the equation: you are replacing a seasoned coach, whose style of football was an absolute delight to watch.

In other words, you don’t want to be in 36-year-old Des Buckingham’s shoes at the moment.

The Englishman, who took over as coach of Mumbai City FC from Sergio Lobera this season, has his task cut out when his team face bitter rivals FC Goa in their opening Indian Super League (ISL) encounter in Goa on Monday.

Though this is supposed to be Mumbai’s ‘home’ match, all the games are being played in a bio-bubble in Goa because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While Goa’s side remains mostly unchanged since last season, Mumbai were kept quite busy in the transfer window, with a few big names leaving. The most notable among them is Hugo Boumous. The Frenchman, who’s arguably been the best player of the league for the past two seasons, was snapped by ATK Mohun Bagan.

Last season’s captain and golden glove winner Amrinder Singh too has left the club to join ATK Mohun Bagan. Strikers Adam le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche, the duo who contributed to 19 goals last season, have also left the club.

It’s not like Mumbai, owned by City Football Group (CFG), are in dire straits though. They’ve got some great reinforcements.

Igor Angulo, who’s a year older than Buckingham, has joined the Islanders from Goa and looks in good touch. Mumbai’s most exciting signing is definitely last season’s emerging player of the year, Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuia).

Their defence has been bolstered by the addition of Rahul Bheke. Keeping defender Mourtada Fall, who sources say was wanted by at least four other clubs, will be seen as a success for Mumbai. The Senagalese has been named captain for this season.

While Mumbai haven’t had a very long pre-season, coach Buckingham said being in a bio-bubble has given them plenty of time off the field which has helped them prepare well.

“We've spent a lot of time on the field, but we spent more time off the field really working with this group of players,” he said at the pre-match conference.

Goa have quite consistent season after season but the trophy has been elusive for them. They lost two finals in 2015 and 2018. Last season, they lost in the semifinals against eventual winners Mumbai.

Compared to any ISL team, Goa have had a fabulous pre-season and Mumbai should be extremely wary of them.

They began their pre-season right from August. They competed and won the month-long Durand Cup which has given their preparation a shot in the arm. They definitely look like to be the favourites this season, and Mumbai have their task cut out.

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Published on: Sunday, November 21, 2021, 09:18 PM IST
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