Mumbai City FC's second home game in a row could not come at the hands of tougher opponents as they prepare to take on Atletico de Kolkata, a team looking to push themselves into form and retake their tags of tournament favorites.
Both teams have their strengths that are laid out for all to see, but its neutralising Mumbai’s City FC’s obvious stinginess at the back that was at the front of Atletico de Kolkata coach Jose Molina mind.
He conceded Mumbai’s defensive progress but backed his team to the hilt and said, ''I know it will be difficult to score goals because they are defending well as they have two clean sheets in two matches. We have three goals in two matches. We will try to attack more. No special plan but we know we have to score and take advantage.''
''We know we are here to play against a strong team. They played two matches, won both, six points and two clean sheets. That’s a very good beginning for Mumbai. We want to play our game. We have similar styles and it will be an interesting match,” he said.
Mumbai City FC coach Alexandre Guimaraes agreed with the general consensus of the league that Mumbai are going to be no pushovers this season.
''We are all quite pleased with the start to the season. It’s a totally different feeling that the team and fans have. The echo from the other teams is also different; they are thinking this is going to be a different season for Mumbai City,” he said.
While Mumbai’s defence has been its strength on paper, a good team like Atletico could crack the code and not only score but win this battle. Mumbai’s low scoring ties have been salvaged by their luck at the back, where both FC Pune City and NorthEast United FC missed sitters to allow the Mumbaikars of a defensive record that frankly, they do not deserve.
Lucian Goian and Anwar Ali have been spearheading Alexander Guimaraes’ backline and while the pair have shown improvement, they still have a long way to go before becoming as iron-tight as the ex-Costa Rican national team coach wants them to be.
And if ATK do manage to score, then it isn’t like Mumbai has created a great number of chances that makes a draw or even a come from behind victory very likely. Therefore, Atletico have a good chance of beating this Mumbai side at home.
''Tomorrow is a tough game against a good team that retained players from last season, particularly foreigners. They have a good knowledge of each other. We have to continue to play our game and remain focused. We have to be solid and compact,” said Guimaraes.
Coach Molina was asked in the pre-match press conference about the effect of marquee player Diego Forlan. The 37-year-old has assisted one goal and has taken a penalty in his two games.
“There is no special plan (for Diego Forlan). I don’t like to focus on one player. I think they have good players in attack, midfield and defence. I like my team defending as a team – together, and against a team, not one or two players. We know how to defend,” said Molina.
An advantage that Kolkata hold over Mumbai is their pace in the final third and while sounding surprised at that suggestion, Molina said ''We have our way to play. We try to play in the same way in away matches and in home matches. Sometimes we change things according to the pace of the rival. I don’t know if we were quicker in our away matches, they were only two matches. But we will try to maintain (the pace).''
A major concern for both teams would be the fitness of their star strikers. Both Helder Postiga and Diego Forlan are not completely 100 percent in line to start for their teams and their non-availability could heavily influence the result of this game.
Guimaraes was non-committal in his assessment of the situation and said, ''We have more than 24 hours for our usual check-up. We have doctors to check how the players feel. Then from after lunch tomorrow, we will know exactly with whom I can start.”
After two seasons, one can’t help but look at this game as the one where old habits return and both teams go back to their usual standings – Atletico have consistently been in the top and Mumbai at the bottom. But such is the volatile nature of results in the ISL that anything can happen. On paper it looks to be Mumbai’s win but things aren’t as rosy as they seem.