The Spaniard spoke ahead of his team’s all-important clash against Bengaluru FC on Tuesday.

Mumbai City FC will face Bengaluru FC at the Fatorda Stadium on January 5. The Islanders will be seeking their seventh victory of the season to reclaim top spot in the standings. Head coach Sergio Lobera and midfielder Rowllin Borges addressed the media ahead of the match. Lobera spoke at length about sustaining the winning momentum and the unique challenge that the Blues can present. He stressed on improving the team’s performances irrespective of the results and also his underwhelming record against Carles Cuadrat’s men. 

Different challenge due to Bengaluru’s style of play? 

Lobera has previously explained that it is easier to play against teams that employ a similar approach to theirs. The tactician believes that it offers Mumbai more spaces in the opposition’s half and makes for good viewing for the spectators. However, Bengaluru’s tactics are set to be contrasting to that of Hyderabad FC and Kerala Blasters. 

“I think it is going to be a different game than the last two games. Bengaluru is a very competitive team, very compact team, very good in defence. It’s difficult for us to find spaces in their half and we need to manage the situation better because the next game will be different than the last two games,” Lobera affirmed. 

Pressure to match ATK Mohun Bagan’s result at the top of the table?

ATK Mohun Bagan have a point’s advantage after playing an additional game as compared to Mumbai. The two teams have been breathing down each other’s necks this season. There is very little separating them in terms of results. Hence, dropping even a single point can turn out to be detrimental in the larger scheme of things. Sergio Lobera was asked whether such a situation adds further pressure on the team. 

“There is no pressure. We need to enjoy playing football, we need to put our focus in every game. It’s not about thinking of the table. Our focus now is on the game against Bengaluru and I think this is the most important thing, step-by-step, game-by-game. At the end of the season, the most important thing is the table. 

“Of course, we want to win. It is special for us, our fans, for all the people who follow us. But, now the most important thing is to put our focus on the game. We don’t feel pressure. We are enjoying the way we are playing good football. We have very good results until now,” the head coach responded. 

Source of motivation in every game

Mumbai City have some tough fixtures in a short span of time up ahead. The team is certainly aiming for the coveted first place in the table. Each game turns out to be instrumental in such a scenario. Sergio Lobera was probed about whether the competition exerted by other sides acts as a source of motivation for the metropolis club. The Spaniard elaborated that his team’s urge to succeed is driven by their own ambitions and they do not need any external impetus. 

“I think our motivation depends on ourselves, not on a third person or any other team. We have a lot of motivation every game and this does not depend on the ATK (Mohun Bagan) result or the result of other games and other teams. We need to work on thinking of ourselves. We need to work everytime to improve our levels. Every game we need to work to win the game. It’s not about the result of ATK. The start of the season was very good for us. But, in this competition, everything is possible to change in a short time,” the 43-year-old said. 

Sergio Lobera added, “Sometimes, we have three games in seven days and everything is possible to change. Now, ATKMB is doing a very good job, we also. But, there are very good teams in the competition and everything is possible to change in a short time. We need to continue working in the same way and depending on ourselves.”

Poor record against Bengaluru FC

Lobera struggled to break down Bengaluru FC during his time at FC Goa. The Blues defeated the Gaurs in the final of ISL 2018/19 and picked up a draw as well as a victory in the 2019/20 campaign. How does the Islanders’ coach plan to negate his track record against Cuadrat’s team? 

“The past is the past and the past does not affect the future. I think these are different scenarios, different contexts, different players, different teams. We are preparing the competition game tomorrow the same way as always. We need to improve our level. But, there is nothing special about this. Bengaluru always, for all teams, is a very difficult team to play against. But, the most important thing for me is my team and we need to work very well to do our 100%,” Sergio Lobera replied. 

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Room for improvement in the team? 

Despite scoring twice and maintaining a clean-sheet, the head coach wasn’t entirely pleased with the team’s performance against the Blasters. He rued the players’ inability to kill off the game with another goal and their tendency to provide goalscoring opportunities to the opposition. 

Speaking about the areas the side needs to still work on, Lobera stated, “The most important thing is not only the result, it’s to analyze how it’s possible to win. For example, in the last game we started very well, we scored two goals but after that gave opportunities to Kerala with our mistakes. We had very good chances to finish the game. Because 3-0 is a very difficult result for the opponent team. We need to improve in order to score the chances that we create.” 

He further claimed, “We need to improve in the last game, for example, to manage the result better. When you are winning 2-0, it’s not possible to concede chances to the opponent team with our mistakes. But, I’m very happy with my team. I am very happy with my squad. We are improving, we are winning and we need to continue working in the same way.”

Rowllin Borges’ brief remarks

Being a man of few words, Rowllin Borges kept his interaction very brief. Asked about adapting to playing with the new members in the team, the midfielder quipped, “It was not too difficult. As you know, (Ahmed) Jahouh and (Hugo) Boumous are very good and quality players. So, it was not very bad to adjust playing with them and to the style of play that the coach wants us to play.”

Speaking on any specific changes the coach made to his style of play, he said, “No, there is nothing. The formation and role has been the same. It’s just the demand of the game, if the game allows me to go forward, to attack more, I go. If the game demands me, if we are under pressure, then I just sit back and defend. It depends on the game.”

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