Both the Islanders and the Kolkata giants are on an unbeaten run right now in the 2020-21 ISL season.

Mumbai City FC will come up against SC East Bengal at Tilak Maidan in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Saturday evening. The Islanders will be in the quest to return to winning ways after drawing their previous game against Hyderabad FC. The team had convincingly won 3-0 when they last faced the Red and Gold earlier this season. However, Robbie Fowler’s team are on a seven-game unbeaten streak are proving to be a tough nut to crack. Head coach Sergio Lobera admitted this notion as he addressed the media along with Vikram Pratap Singh ahead of the match.

Assessment of SC East Bengal

Fowler’s team has bagged only two victories so far. But, they have played six draws and are perceived to maintain a very compact defensive line. Lobera has previously highlighted the challenges of overcoming defensively astute teams. Hence, he reiterated that their upcoming opposition are going to be no pushovers. “I think it could be a big mistake, if we play tomorrow’s game thinking of the past match against East Bengal.

“They are a completely different team. They have improved a lot, their level, performance, it’s a very difficult team. It’s difficult to find spaces in their half. It’s difficult to defend well some players of the opponent team,” Sergio Lobera said.

He added, “But, we are working to improve some things. Because, in the last games, obviously it’s possible to do better some things. We are in very good way in terms of results on the table, but we need to think about every game and we are working a lot to try to prepare as best as possible for tomorrow’s game. Because East Bengal improved a lot and they are a very good team.”

Record so far & aspirations going ahead

Mumbai City have scored the joint-most (17) and conceded the least (4) number of goals this season. Obviously, the team wishes to sustain this record, but the head coach asserted that a summit finish will be the ultimate reward for his team’s performances.

“The most important thing is to win the trophy. But obviously, this is a consequence to do well a lot of things. If during the way we have very good numbers, in terms of not conceding a lot of goals, a lot of clean-sheets, to score a lot of goals, to have the possession of the ball. Obviously, when you are doing well these things you have more possibilities to win the trophy, to win the league. But, more importantly, I need to refuse the old records and only to win the trophy because it’s the best record we can achieve,” Sergio Lobera claimed.

Mandar Rao Dessai’s performances after break

Mandar Rao Dessai had left the team’s bubble for personal reasons in early December. Mumbai replaced him with Vignesh Dakshinamurthy who performed exceedingly well in the few opportunities that he got. However, Dessai walked back into the playing XI upon his return and continues to rack up consistent performances. The head coach was all praise for the full-back’s ability to bounce back after a big personal loss.

“I am very happy about the performance of my team in this difficult situation, difficult circumstances, difficult scenario. Especially with Mandar, I answered your question. It was very difficult for one person, not only about the player. I am very happy to have players and persons like Mandar because it’s not easy, this situation. After that, his professionalism, attitude, his amazing job during this period. I am very happy with his performance, with the team and his attitude now with the team,” the 44-year-old mentioned.

Comparisons between his Mumbai City & FC Goa teams

Sergio Lobera has an impeccable record coaching FC Goa, which made him a revered a figure in Indian football. The Spaniard’s method of coaching remains the same, as both his teams displayed seamless attacking proficiency. Naturally, comparisons are bound to be drawn between the two lineups, but Lobera highlighted that he can’t pit different sides with varying contexts against each other.

“No, I think firstly it’s very difficult to compare teams in the same club and most difficult is to compare teams in the different clubs, with different players and different context. I don’t like to compare the teams. I think every team is different, every season is different. Obviously, this season is the most difficult season because we are in very special circumstances. We are in a bubble, playing in a short time a lot of games,” the tactician explained.

Is lack of goals in last two games a point of concern?

Mumbai top the goalscoring charts, but have netted only once in their last two games. There were certain doubts over the oppositions gradually curbing their attacking instincts. Lobera was probed about whether it’s a point of concern for him, as the team head into the encounter against SC East Bengal. The coach clarified that he remains undeterred with respect to the situation.

“I am not worried about our capacity to score goals because we are scoring goals enough to get the best results for us. Obviously, always it’s possible to improve, but the most important thing for me as a coach is to create chances and the team is creating chances. We have our chances in every game. It’s not about stats because sometimes you are considering shots on target. There are very good chances without the shots on target,” Sergio Lobera opened up.

He further added, “It’s not the stats, I need to analyze as a professional the performance of my team. I think we are creating chances, scoring goals, we have very good numbers in defence. We need to keep this work. It’s not about to score more goals than other teams. It’s about to win the games and to win in our style of play. I think we are doing well this job.”

Vikram Partap Singh on season

Mumbai lured in exciting forward Vikram Pratap Singh from Indian Arrows last summer. The attacker has made a few substitute appearances this season, as the coach seems eager to ease him into the setup. Singh was delighted with the opportunities offered to him and expressed his gratitude to Lobera.

“The experience so far has been so good. I am gaining confidence after playing six matches. As the team continues playing well, watching them and spending minutes on the field is giving me a lot of confidence. I think I will do well going ahead. Head coach has a big role because he has given me chances, despite so many players being there in the squad.

“I am getting some opportunities in every game, which is a huge thing for me at this age. I just want to get some chances in every game and then it’s upon me to use them. I am putting every effort to do even better on the field,” the 19-year-old said.

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