It is one of the most-anticipated games in Indian football this season.
The final showdown of the Indian Super League (ISL) beckons us as Mumbai City FC prepare to take on ATK Mohun Bagan at the Fatorda Stadium on Saturday. The Islanders put in a lion-hearted effort across two legs against FC Goa to surpass the semi-final hurdle.
On the other hand, the Mariners played out a similarly challenging contest against Khalid Jamil’s NorthEast United to march their way towards the title. These two have undoubtedly been the best teams this season. Backed by robust financial muscle, they built formidable squads and rolled over their oppositions in style over a period of time. It is only fitting that they meet each other for one last time, in the biggest game of the campaign so far.
Mumbai City have everything at stake in this weekend’s encounter. The finale presents them an opportunity to cap off a well-rounded season, sans any regrets. One would presume that a side will tend to falter after having achieved the ultimate prize that the league has to offer: a berth in the AFC Champions League. We saw it happen with FC Goa in 2019-20. However, the war-like siege mentality that Sergio Lobera has instilled into the Islanders, coupled with a seamlessly attractive brand of football mean that Mumbai are not done yet.
Players might be crippling with injuries, suspensions, personal issues, but the Islanders just don’t give up. They overcome one onerous challenge after another and all of it goes down to the managerial and tactical acumen of Lobera. His teams always knew how to play some really good football, but this season is starkly different. Mumbai don’t seem like they are here only to play beautiful football. They are here to get results, by hook or by crook.
They might not be extremely fluent at times, but they hold their stuff together at the back and are extremely efficient from set-pieces. This is not to suggest that they can’t score from open play because they are top-notch on that front too.
It’s just that Lobera has introduced newer, unique dimensions to his gameplay in this campaign, which has enhanced his team’s winning ability significantly. And, this is an aspect that can hugely determine the final outcome of this epic clash. At stake is Mumbai’s desire to do the double; to win the ISL trophy in addition to the League Winners’ Shield, which will brilliantly culminate the club’s first full campaign under the ownership of the City Football Group (CFG).
For ATK Mohun Bagan, it’s almost a battle of dominance. The club was bolstered with the merger with Mohun Bagan and Sanjiv Goenka-led RPSG infused a lot of money to better their already terrific squad. Through the additions of star players like Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose, Tiri, Marcelinho, Lenny Rodrigues, the Mariners ended up reinforcing their squad extremely well. They should have been the undisputed conquerors of the league, miles above the rest of the clubs. But, the CFG-backed Mumbai City took ATKMB head on and defeated them twice in the league stage.
The Islanders overthrew the Mariners’ supremacy and robbed them off qualifying to the ACL, despite being in pole position to do so towards the fag end of the season. Now, it’s Antonio Habas’ chance to seek revenge; to reaffirm his credentials as the topmost coach in the league. It’s his opportunity to erase the regrets of failing to claim the shield. This is a Goliath Vs Goliath faceoff; a battle of peerless financial superiority, excellent coaching acumen and of the best players in the league. What more could one have asked from the ISL 7 finale? Bring it on!
Mumbai City FC do not have any injury concerns, but Mandar Rao Dessai will miss out due to collecting two yellow cards across the semi-final legs against FC Goa. ATKMB too have a fully fit squad, though there are some doubts over Edu Garcia’s current fitness status.
Mumbai City have won both their matches against ATK Mohun Bagan this year. Otherwise, the erstwhile ATK had faced the Islanders on 14 occasions. The two teams had won five games each, whereas four encounters had resulted in a draw.
Mumbai City: Amrinder (GK); Ranawade, Fall, Santana, Vignesh; Rowllin, Jahouh; Raynier, Boumous, Bipin; Ogbeche.
ATK Mohun Bagan: Arindam (GK); Kotal, Jhingan, Tiri, Subhasish; Lenny, McHugh, Javi; Manvir, Williams, Krishna.
Man To Watch
Bartholomew Ogbeche (Mumbai City FC)
Commeth the hour, commeth the man. Bartholomew Ogbeche might not have been the first-choice striker for Sergio Lobera this season. But, he has delivered brilliantly whenever called in to action. This campaign, the Nigerian marksman has netted against ATK Mohun Bagan twice in two matches, scored against Bengaluru FC and bagged a brace in the must-win clash against Odisha FC last month.
He stepped up to take Mumbai’s first spot-kick of the penalty shootout against FC Goa and comfortably slotted the ball into the back of the net to hand them an early advantage. In February, Ogbeche had claimed that he values the importance of his goals more than the number of goals that he scores. With Adam le Fondre failing to score across the two legs versus FC Goa, Ogbeche might just start the finale and end up scoring his most important goal of the campaign so far.
Roy Krishna (ATK Mohun Bagan)
Roy Krishna has been pivotal to ATK Mohun Bagan’s success across the last two years. He has scored 14 goals and assisted seven others in ISL 7 and Habas will be pinning hopes of the Fijian striker to come up with the goods in the final too. However, rather surprisingly, Krishna failed to score in the two losses against Mumbai City.
The Islanders’ defensive line, led by the towering Mourtada Fall, has done well to neutralize Krishna’s influence in the final third. The 33-year-old undoubtedly understands that him scoring is integral to his team’s chances in the forthcoming contest. Needless to say, the dynamic forward would be raring to take on one of the meanest defensive setups in this blockbuster clash.
Did You Know?
- Both Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan have maintained the joint-most number of clean sheets (10) this season.
- Bartholomew Ogbeche has a better goal-per-minute ratio (117.25) than both Roy Krishna (140.85) and Adam le Fondre (141.45) so far this season.
- Manvir Singh has scored double the number of goals this season (6), than he scored in three seasons with FC Goa (3).
The match between Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan is set to be telecast live on Star Sports 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 2 SD & HD (English), Star Sports Hindi 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 3 and several other regional languages. Live streaming of the match will be available on Hotstar and Jio TV.