ISL 2016: ‘Cautious’ Mumbai City FC eye top spot with maximum points against FC Goa

With just two points from their last three matches, Mumbai City FC’s bright start to the season has been brought to a screeching halt. On Friday, Mumbai have the perfect opportunity to regain lost momentum when they take on the struggling FC Goa at the Andheri Sports Complex. They head into the match knowing that they haven’t lost a match at home this season, and that a win would send them back to the top of the Indian Super League standings.

In their most recent clash against Delhi Dynamos, Mumbai squandered a two-goal lead twice, and had to settle for a solitary point following a 3-3 draw. Goa, meanwhile, have lost their first three matches and only clinched their first point of the season with a 1-1 draw with Atletico de Kolkata. No side in the ISL has failed to register a win in their first five matches, and the previous season’s runners-up will be looking to avoid this unsavoury distinction.

Mumbai City FC can return to the top of the table with a win against FC Goa. ISL

Mumbai City FC can return to the top of the table with a win against FC Goa. ISL

Mumbai coach Alexandre Guimaraes was pleased with his team’s performance against Delhi despite the dropped points. He would have been particularly happy with the goal-scoring form of Sony Norde and Krisztian Vadocz. Norde’s return to the squad has lifted their performance, and the Haitian winger can single-handedly turn matches on their heads. His breakneck runs down the left flank and dangerous free-kicks can wreck havoc on the opposition's defence.

Vadocz, who scored a brace in Mumbai’s last outing, has been one of their most consistent players this season. The towering central midfielder has played every minute of the Blues’ ISL 2016 campaign and has been a rock in the middle of the park. Combined with Matias Defederico, Mumbai have plenty of attacking firepower and will look to heap misery on FC Goa, who have conceded seven goals in their four matches so far.

However, Guimaraes has plenty of concerns to address as well. Centre-back Anwar Ali and midfielder Leo Costa both picked up injuries in the last match and are unlikely to feature against Goa. Costa’s absence will be a huge blow for Mumbai as he has been instrumental in creating opportunities and controlling play for his team.

Furthermore, Bengaluru FC’s historical win over Johor Darul Ta'zim in the AFC Cup semi-finals has ensured that Mumbai will be without the services of star striker Sunil Chhetri and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh till at least 5 November. The Costa Rican coach, however, refuses to consider this as a negative. "Sunil did fantastic for Bengaluru FC. He scored superb goals. First thing I did after the game was to congratulate him and Amrinder and the other guys. This possibility was known to us since the beginning and we have to handle it. We have handled it well it now. The team has shown that we have backup until they come back,” Guimaraes said during a pre-match press conference.

"I hope they do well and come back as the AFC champions. Of course, after this, their energy will be much better for the team,” he added.

While the 56-year-old manager blamed the match officials for the two controversial goals that they conceded against Delhi, he will be worried about his side’s defensive frailties. In 2015, the Gaurs drubbed Mumbai 7-0 in Goa and Guimaraes will be wary of the attacking brand of football that the visitors are capable of playing.

FC Goa’s head coach Zico is confident that his team can turn things around and isn’t too worried about their lack of form so far in the tournament. “'I think our team (is) playing well. Even when we lost in three games, it was very clear that in two games we could have had a totally different result. We lost the two matches more because of our mistakes than because of the merits of the other team,” the Brazilian said ahead of their clash against Mumbai City FC.

Goa are still searching for their first victory and Guimaraes believes that makes them even more dangerous opponents to deal with. "They (FC Goa) didn’t deserve the results that they have till now. They have played courageous, brave, attacking football."

"I am expecting this (attacking football) from them against Mumbai. This is the way FC Goa qualified (for the semi-final) during the first season and made it to the final last year. This is football. Sometimes it happens, but we know that when the opponent comes to play a game with this kind of necessity, it’s always more dangerous. We have to be cautious and alert," the Mumbai coach said.

Both Mumbai and Goa have been missing their marquee players, Diego Forlan and Lucio, respectively. If they feature in Friday’s match, the spectators could be treated to an intriguing battle between the two. While Guimaraes was positive that Forlan will play against FC Goa, Zico chose to be vague about Lucio’s inclusion. "I never give the line-up before the match because we still have one training to go. So, after this, you have to check our player list – who is playing and who is not," he said.

Forlan’s return will be a massive boost to Mumbai City FC’s chances and while their coach has expressed the need to proceed with caution, he knows they need to capatalise on league leaders NortEast United slipping up on Thursday evening. At home, against the bottom-placed team, nothing less than three points would do.

Updated Date: Oct 21, 2016 12:44 PM

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