The Spaniard along with goalkeeper Amrinder Singh spoke about their preparations ahead of the big game on Saturday.

Mumbai City FC will face fellow finalists ATK Mohun Bagan in the eventual showdown of the seventh season of the Indian Super League (ISL). The two teams have been head and shoulders above the rest of the clubs in this campaign and fittingly will face-off yet again for the ISL title at the Fatorda Stadium on Saturday. Head coach Sergio Lobera and skipper Amrinder Singh addressed the media ahead of the crucial weekend encounter.

Pragmatic approach in last few games

Sergio Lobera has introduced new dimensions to his management this season. He hasn’t shied away from going all-out in attack, but also adopts a pragmatic approach at times to see off matches and get the desired results. The coach was asked whether this shift in methodology has been a conscious effort from his end.

“No. We need to know to compete well against the very good teams. We need to be ready when it is not possible to manage the game, to have the control because the opponent team is playing really well. But, the most important thing is to be compact, to be working as a team and with the same idea and come back to the game with our style of play.”

He added, “But, sometimes it’s not possible and the most important thing is to work in the collective idea and compete very well. I think we were a very competitive team in the last game and if you want to win trophies, you need to be competitive. It’s not only about the situation during the game you are playing well, it’s about to manage the opponent team in their moments.”

Best group of Indian players he has worked with?

One of the hallmarks of Lobera’s coaching has been his ability to develop scores of Indian players. Bipin Singh, Amey Ranawade, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy are some key examples of his achievements on this front.

Asked whether this is the best group of Indian players he has worked with, Sergio Lobera explained, “I am very happy about the level of Indian players we have in our squad. It’s impossible to win trophies, to win the league, finish at the top of the table without very good level in Indian players. The foreign players, you know it’s an important role in the squad.

“But, if you don’t have very good Indian players it’s impossible to win trophies. You can win games, but it’s impossible to finish at the top of the table or to reach the finals. I am very happy with the level of my Indian players, with their improvement. I’m very happy we can have more players in the national team. They are very good players and help us to achieve our targets. The first target for me as a coach is to try to improve the level of Indian players, give them the opportunities to show everyone their quality and I am very happy about this with my team.”

Pressure to win concerning money spent?

Mumbai have been significantly bolstered post their acquisition by the famed City Football Group (CFG). They bought quality players en masse in the previous transfer window and its results are reflected in their vastly improved performances. Naturally, there has been pressure on them to perform to the expected levels right from the offset.

Addressing this issue, the head coach elaborated, “I think all the teams are working within the salary cap. If there are teams that don’t want to spend money it’s their decision. But, money is not equal to trophies. I think we have done a very good job. We have players who accepted our offer with lesser money compared to other teams offered them. I am very proud of the decision of the players who want to come to us because they want to play our style of play.”

He added, “They are enjoying playing with us. There is always pressure. But, I accept it. I need this pressure as a coach and enjoy it. I don’t like to work in a place where there is no pressure because it means maybe you do not have enough level in your squad to try to achieve big targets. I know when I had the first meeting in Manchester with the City Football Group (CFG), this is a big, big project and I accept this challenge.”

The Spaniard further expressed, “I am very happy about the situation. Hopefully, after Saturday’s game, it’s possible to achieve the trophy. But, if it’s not possible, I am very proud of my players. We deserve this season and enjoy a lot of moments because everyone has done big efforts to achieve this.”

Any special message from Pep Guardiola?

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola had congratulated Mumbai City FC and Sergio Lobera for qualifying to the AFC Champions League in one of his recent media interactions.

Asked whether he has received any special message from the legendary Spanish tactician ahead of Saturday’s finale, Sergio Lobera said, “This is a personal situation. But, you know, Pep Guardiola and all family in CFG is behind us. Always try to help to us every day and we are very lucky because when you are working in a place and you have behind us a lot of people in CFG, asking if we need something to prepare, I think it’s very important to us.

“You can show the message from Pep. This is a message for everyone is possible to see, but there are a lot of people behind us every day,” concluded Sergio Lobera.

Amrinder Singh’s comments

Amrinder Singh has arguably been the best goalkeeper in the ISL this season. He has seamlessly adapted to the coach’s demands of a ball-playing goalkeeper and his excellent reflexes have kept Mumbai in the fray in several matches.

Commenting on adjusting to the style of play, Singh said, “If you see, around five years ago this style was not there in India. When I was under (Albert) Roca sir, I had some issues in playing this way in Bengaluru. There, I had improved myself in this style. When Lobera sir came to Mumbai, I had an idea of what needed to be done. I had seen his matches and knew what he wanted, how he wanted to play.”

He added, “Of course I think it was difficult, but I have adapted to his style and demands in different moments very well. It’s difficult for a goalkeeper, but if you train and understand the coach’s demands well, then nothing is difficult in football. I think his style to play from the back, build up from the back is most important to enjoy it. I gradually started relishing this and gained confidence this way.”

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