The Spaniard along with Bartholomew Ogbeche addressed the media ahead of their clash against Hyderabad FC on Saturday.
Mumbai City FC will face Hyderabad FC at the GMC Stadium on Saturday evening. The Islanders are on a nine-match unbeaten streak currently, their joint-longest is the history of the Indian Super League (ISL). They will be searching for their ninth victory of the campaign against the Nizams, whom they had defeated 2-0 in December. Head coach Sergio Lobera and striker Bartholomew Ogbeche addressed the media ahead of the team’s upcoming match.
Sergio Lobera on whether the team can improve further from here
Mumbai City had won 26 points in ISL 2019-20 season. They have already earned 25 points in 10 games in the ongoing campaign. This statistic alone defines the club’s incredible progress. Lobera was asked whether his side can scale even greater heights from hereon, but he maintained that they still have plenty of room to improve.
“I am very happy with the results so far. You know it’s very difficult to win eight times in the first 10 games, 25 points. It’s very difficult to keep this situation. But, the most important thing for us is to not put our focus on the table, on the points, on the results. It’s to put our focus in trying to keep our performance, in try to continue improving. We are halfway and we need to work a lot,” he said.
Expectations from game Vs Hyderabad FC
Manolo Marquez’s Hyderabad have been one of the rather unexpected surprise packages this season. They occupy the fourth spot currently and have dealt with numerous injury concerns to notch four victories in 10 games. Under Marquez’s tutelage, the team have adopted a style of play much akin to that of Mumbai. They stress upon retaining possession, building up attacks and have scored four goals each in their last two matches.
Reflecting on the challenges of this contest, Sergio Lobera stated, “I think I am sure that this will be a very difficult game. They are playing in a similar style of play like us. They have a very good team, with very young players and very good Indian players; also very good foreign players. I think it’s going to be a different game than that we played against them (in December).
“They have recovered a lot of players and have a full squad now. But, the most important thing for us is to be loyal to our style of play, to keep the possession of the ball, to have the ball because they are a team comfortable with the ball. To win possession of the ball is very important for tomorrow’s game.”
Performance of Indian players
Many domestic players in Lobera’s team were playing a drastically opposite brand of football under Jorge Costa last season. However, they have seamlessly adapted to the Spaniard’s approach this time around and the results of the same are being seen on the field. The coach, as expected, is pleased with the efforts put in by his Indian players.
“I am very happy and I am very proud of my Indian players. It’s not easy to, as I told you before, working in a short pre-season trying to implement a newer style of play in a new club with 24 new players. I think it’s very important, the level of Indian players, if you want to achieve something important. The level of my Indian players is amazing, they are improving day-by-day. Most important is their attitude to want to learn everyday. If we want to win trophies, we need the level of Indian players to be high during all the season,” Sergio Lobera stated.
On Liston Colaco
Sergio Lobera had previously worked with Liston Colaco during his time with FC Goa. The winger hadn’t attained many opportunities back then, but the coach seems to be quite impressed with his talent and abilities. Colaco scored two goals in Hyderabad’s last game against NorthEast United. Hence, the coach was probed about whether he believes the 22-year-old will put forth a difficult challenge.
“He is a very good player and an excellent person. It was amazing to work with him because he is a very good player. But, tomorrow’s game is not possible to decide only about one player, our player or their player. We need a collective job. We need to work as a team to try to win the game. For Hyderabad also, tomorrow I don’t know if it’s possible to play (Liston) in the first XI. But, our focus is to play against a very good team,” the tactician responded.
Players stepping up in Ahmed Jahouh’s absence against ATK Mohun Bagan
Mumbai’s midfield lynchpin Ahmed Jahouh sat out the critical encounter against ATK Mohun Bagan due to suspension. Yet, the team seemed undeterred by that loss, as Raynier Fernandes was deployed in Jahouh’s position and Hernan Santana dictated the play from deep midfield. Sergio Lobera was seemingly impressed with his players’ ability to adapt to such adverse situations and heaped praise on the squad depth that he has at his disposal.
The head coach explained, “Obviously, Jahouh is a very important player for us and for all the team. But, as I told you before, the most important thing is the collective work. I am very happy with the performance of the players in the last game. It was a very difficult game against a very good team. The performance of the players who played was very good, was amazing. It’s an amazing problem, a big problem for me now to choose is the best first XI for the next game.”
Bartholomew Ogbeche on last two games
Bartholomew Ogbeche stormed back into form with crucial goals in the important matches against Bengaluru FC and ATKMB. He started the previous match ahead of Adam le Fondre and looks set to occupy that spot for the time being. Pondering on the last two games, Ogbeche said, “The last two games have been as important for us like every single game of the season. Even though I haven’t started every game, I prepare as if I want to start every game. The choice is upto the coach.”
He added, “I think the most important thing, like I have always said and emphasized, is the fact that you know the team has to win. The team’s goals are over any individual goals. Our victory is going to come from the place that the team is ahead of everyone of us. I am always ready. I am always available for the coach to make choices. He can count on me any day, anytime, but the most important thing for us to keep on winning games.”