Sergio Lobera is all set to face his former team in the ISL 2020-21 playoffs that begin later this week.

As things stand, Mumbai City will square off against FC Goa in the first leg of their Indian Super League (ISL) semifinal encounter at the Fatorda Stadium on Friday. The Islanders had won the first match against the Gaurs earlier this season in November. However, the second match had resulted in a draw as a late equalizer from Ishan Pandita saved the day for the Goans.

However, the stakes are much higher in this last-four tie. Goa will be determined to outscore Sergio Lobera’s men, against whom the club must have developed a unique rivalry. The Spaniard was critical in the Gaurs’ qualification to the AFC Champions League last season, but he was unceremoniously sacked only a few weeks before they could complete the league.

The tactician later shifted base to Mumbai City, raided the FC Goa squad to take away many of their key players and repeated the similar feat with the metropolis club this time around. Regardless of the result, all eyes will be set on this blockbuster encounter in the days to come. On that note, let us take a look at the key player battles that might influence the outcome of the game on March 5.

3. Ahmed Jahouh Vs Edu Bedia

This is more of a routine faceoff to watch out for whenever these two sides face each other. Ahmed Jahouh and Edu Bedia are the midfield engines of their respective teams. They control the tempo of the game, disrupt the opposition’s attacking moves, initiate forward forays instantly, take up set-piece responsibilities and top the most passes and touches charts almost regularly.

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With largely similar profiles, these two players are the heart of gameplay of their respective teams. Both of them largely match each other in terms of statistics as well. Jahouh has recorded 75.41 passes per game this season to Bedia’s 74.72. He has registered a passing accuracy of 76.67% to 78.88% of the FC Goa skipper. The Moroccan has assisted four goals to Bedia’s three and there’s very little to separate them in terms of interceptions, clearances and blocks.

Their disciplinary record is susceptible too, as Jahouh has been shown four yellow cards to Bedia’s five and the Mumbai City midfielder has been sent off twice to the Spaniard’s once. It is only in terms of tackles that Jahouh almost doubles (8.52 every match) over the Gaurs’ captain (4.22 every game). Hence, one can safely conclude that a battle of equals will churn out at the centre of the park between these two former teammates at the Fatorda on Friday.

2. Hugo Boumous Vs Glan Martins

Hugo Boumous will rejoin the Mumbai City FC squad after serving his four-match suspension. The attacking midfielder missed a crucial juncture of the campaign but he will be raring to go against his former side upon his return. The 25-year-old has scored two goals and assisted seven more in 13 appearances so far in this season. He has taken over the crucial #10 spot in the lineup and has brilliantly linked the midfield to the forward line.

Boumous is adept at making long, precise passes but also drives the team ahead through his runs in the middle. Glan Martins, who has been mighty impressive so far for Goa, will be tasked to halt Boumous’ onslaught. The defensive midfielder has recorded 4.15 tackles and 1.46 clearances per match on an average this season. He could be potentially asked to man-mark Boumous and prevent the midfielder from dictating Mumbai’s moves in the final third. This could be an interesting duel to analyze in the upcoming match.

1. Bartholomew Ogbeche Vs James Donachie

Bartholomew Ogbeche has put forth a terrific case for himself as the season has progressed. The Nigerian marksman has scored goals in crucial encounters throughout the course of the campaign. He netted twice in two games against ATK Mohun Bagan, scored late to secure three points against Bengaluru FC and bagged a brace in a must-win encounter against Odisha FC. Overall, he has scored eight goals and notched two assists and has a goal contribution in every 81.9 minutes that he has played this season.

His last three goals have been headers and FC Goa’s towering centre-back James Donachie might have made a conscious note of the same. He has won 1.8 aerial duels per game in the ongoing campaign, which translates to a 51 per cent success rate in the same. Mumbai have scored over 50 per cent of their goals from set-pieces this season and Donachie might have to keep Ogbeche in check in such situations. If he fails to do that, the efficient striker will ensure that he manages to put his name in the scoresheet for the third game running.

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