The Islanders’ head coach addressed the media ahead of their upcoming ISL clash against Chennaiyin FC.

Mumbai City FC and Chennaiyin FC will square off for the second time this season in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the GMC Stadium on Monday. The Islanders had defeated the Marina Machans 2-1 in a challenging encounter last time around. However, Mumbai are on an 11-game unbeaten streak and have added Jackichand Singh to their arsenal from Jamshedpur FC. The winger re-joined his former team in a swap deal that saw Farukh Choudhary go the other way. Head coach Sergio Lobera and the winger addressed the media ahead of the team’s match against Chennaiyin.

Farukh Choudhary’s transfer

Farukh Choudhary had moved to Mumbai City only a few months ago on a three-year contract. He was touted to play a major role for the Islanders, but eventually fell out of favour after the first few games. He played only 158 minutes in six matches and hardly made it onto the field in the previous few matches. Yet, Choudhary’s transfer back to Jamshedpur raised some eyebrows considering he had a long-term contract at Mumbai.

Addressing the situation, Sergio Lobera said, “Farukh is a great player. He is an amazing professional, excellent person. I was very happy with Farukh here, but the problem is he didn’t have many chances to play. He needs to play, he is a good player. Maybe the situation is the profile for our style of play.

“I can tell you nothing bad about this player. I can only speak good words. I am very happy to be able to work with him, but we need to find the best solution for the player and it’s very important for him to play now. He has options to go to the national team and the best situation here is not the best situation; not playing. We try to find the best solution for everyone. I wish him the best because he deserves the best.”

Scope of improvement

Mumbai have been relentless this season and have not lost a game since their first match of the season. However, the coach was not pleased with their performance in the second half of the game against SC East Bengal. Speaking on the scope of improvement for the side, the Spaniard claimed, “Obviously, we are happy with our position on the table, with our results.

“Always, it’s possible to improve. We need to work on some points, for example the last game, especially in the second half. It’s very important for us not to think in the past and you need to know the most important thing for us is the future, the next game. We need to keep improving. We need to compete well in every game and this is my target as a coach.”

Further transfer activity

Jackichand’s arrival to Mumbai is a significant move of the current transfer window, as the forward was a part of Lobera’s setup at FC Goa too. Khel Now had earlier exclusively revealed that Mumbai’s skipper Amrinder Singh will depart on a mega five-year deal to join ATK Mohun Bagan after the season. Subsequently, goalkeeper Mohammad Nawaz will make the move to the Islanders to replace him.

Asked about the team’s prospective transfer activity in this window, Sergio Lobera explained, “This question is for our Director of Football. Me, as a coach, I am working every day with the players I have. I am very happy with my squad, with my team. Obviously, the same as all teams, if it is possible to do something to improve our level, it’s good.

“But, I don’t need nothing to improve the level of my players because I am very happy. It’s our job to try to know how the market is and if it’s possible to do something like Farukh and Jacki. But, this is the decision of other people.”

What does Jackichand Singh add to team?

Jackichand Singh had scored five goals and bagged three assists in 18 appearances in ISL 2020-21. He developed into an efficient winger for Lobera and instilled pace and dynamism in the frontline. Speaking about the qualities that he adds to Mumbai’s setup, the tactician said, “I know very well Jacki. He is a very good player.

“He knows perfectly our style of play and what I want. I think it’s easy to adapt quickly to our style of play and he can help us to keep our level, to have more chances, to use more players. I think it’s very important when you are playing games in short time. I am very happy with him here because he can help us a lot.”

AFC Champions League aspirations

Sergio Lobera had come mighty close to topping the league and qualifying for the AFC Champions League with FC Goa last campaign. The 44-year-old was probed about how eager he is to achieve that objective with Mumbai this time around. “I feel I got this (qualifying for the AFC Champions League) last season. Hopefully, it’s possible to achieve this two years in a row,” Lobera interestingly quipped!

Thoughts on unbeaten streak

Mumbai will attain the longest ever unbeaten streak in the history of the ISL, if they manage to defeat Chennaiyin FC on Monday. However, Sergio Lobera reiterated that his sole aim is to win the league with Mumbai.

“I want to achieve one record. It’s to win the first trophy, to win the first league of the club. If during the way, it’s possible to achieve more records, it’s good. Because the most important thing is to not achieve records. It’s to win trophies.”

Jackichand Singh on joining Mumbai City and stint with Jamshedpur FC

Like in Choudhary’s case, even Jackichand Singh had a three-year agreement with Jamshedpur FC. Maybe, this made it easier for the clubs to seamlessly complete the swap deal. Jackichand had earlier represented Mumbai in 2016 and is delighted to join the club again. “Mumbai is already very strong. I am very excited to play here. The coach was with me in the last two seasons and believing in that, I came here. I will try as much as possible to do well for the team,” the 28-year-old admitted.

Speaking about his early departure from Jamshedpur, the winger elaborated, “I got good experience at Jamshedpur. The coach was new and his philosophy was different. So, I couldn’t perform well. In one way this is very good. I received this opportunity because of both clubs and coaches.”

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