The Gaurs lost the playoffs to the Islanders via a penalty shootout last season.

It will be all to play for in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Monday, as Des Buckingham takes over the managerial reins of champions Mumbai City for their opener against Juan Ferrando’s FC Goa. The evenly-matched teams fought out exciting stalemates in their last three meetings. The last of those clashes, however, was a knockout game, which saw Mumbai City edge ahead on penalties to make the ISL final. Despite all the previous drama, a new season signals a clean slate for most teams.

The Islanders will be riding high on the back of a successful season where they clinched the league double. Des Buckingham will be keen to replicate his predecessor Sergio Lobera’s successful stint at the club. Buckingham though will have to do without playmaker Hugo Bumous and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh – two key components of Lobera’s championship-winning side. Regardless, the coach oversaw two pre-season draws against SC East Bengal and Odisha FC and a win over Hyderabad FC.

On the flip side, FC Goa will look for redemption. Their top-four finish in 2020-21 was comprehensively followed up by their debut in the AFC Champions League. An early pre-season start in August helped them clinch their maiden Durand Cup title. They also played pre-season friendlies against Bengaluru FC, who they beat 1-0, and Chennaiyin FC, who beat them 3-0. Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh will want to use this season to claim a regular chance in the national team, while Airam Cabrera, Dylan Fox and Co. will also all be looking to impress.

The Stakes

Mumbai City FC

For Mumbai City FC, ISL 2021-22 will be all about consistency, as they look to defend their title while preparing for their AFC Champions League debut in 2022. The Islanders have had to cope with massive changes in and around the club, with the departures of key players Boumous, Amrinder, head coach Sergio Lobera as well as the introduction of the new four foreigners rule. Buckingham has an uphill task of retaining the squad’s integrity as well as using the incoming Rahul Bheke, Igor Angulo and Lalengmawia efficiently.

Igor Angulo and Ygor Catatau are exciting signings, with the former a key figure for FC Goa last season. What remains to be seen is how a palatable balance is achieved among the Indian and foreign players. Can Buckingham also avert a rotational crisis with game-time for the youngsters? Coming off the back of a considerably relaxed pre-season, the team will look to stamp their authority on this game and set a marker for the remainder of the season.

FC Goa

After they narrowly missed out on the final last season, FC Goa will look to come out with all guns blazing. Juan Ferrando has retained the core of his team, with the only notable departure being Igor Angulo (Mumbai City) and Ishan Pandita (Jamshedpur). The 40-year-old has enjoyed commendable progress since his appointment and will look to build on the same. With the swashbuckling pre-season they had, one can only expect this side to be hungry for the title.

With an established set of starting players, Ferrando will look to employ a creative midfield partnership of Edu Bedia and Glan Martins. Dylan Fox could get the nod ahead of Ivan Gonzalez at the back. The squad depth with regard to the four foreigners’ rule should not be a source of woe for Ferrando as youngsters like Princeton Rebello and Alexander Romario Jesuraj have shown their capability of putting up performances when called upon. FC Goa will look to capitalize on Mumbai’s change of order to wreak havoc in their ranks and make a statement.

Team News

FC Goa’s Muhammed Nemil is out with an injury he sustained in the pre-season. Other than that, both teams have fully fit squads to choose from ahead of their ISL opener. Mumbai City FC’s Amey Ranawade suffered a head concussion during last season’s final. However, he has recovered and is available for the game.

Head to Head

The last three meetings between these two sides have ended in draws, with the exception of the last clash where Mumbai pipped Goa on penalties in a semi-final encounter.

Overall, they’ve played 18 games against each other, of which Mumbai City FC have won six and FC Goa, seven. Five of these games were draws, with two of them coming in their last three meetings.

Probable Lineups

Mumbai City FC (4-3-3): Mohammad Nawaz (GK); Amey Ranawade, Rahul Bheke, Mourtada Fall, Mandar Rao Dessai; Cassio Gabriel, Ahmed Jahouh, Lalengmawia; Vikram Partap Singh, Bipin Singh, Igor Angulo.

FC Goa (4-2-3-1): Dheeraj Singh (GK); Seriton Fernandes, Dylan Fox, Aibanbha Dohling, Saviour Gama; Glan Martins, Edu Bedia; Devendra Murgaonkar, Alberto Noguera, Brandon Fernandes; Airam Cabrera.

Man to Watch

Igor Angulo (Mumbai City FC)

Igor Angulo
Angulo won the ISL Golden Boot with FC Goa last season (Courtesy: MCFC Media)

The former Athletic Bilbao striker won the ISL Golden Boot in his debut season in India with 14 goals. Not only was he the stalwart spearhead in attack, but he also scored twice against his current employers. His frightening finishing ability can be banked upon once again this season.

Defenders will have a tough time dealing with his ability to drift into half-spaces and initiate blindside runs, let alone his ridiculous shooting and decent dribbling. He should be getting ample supply from the likes of Jahouh, Lalengmawia and the lot. Bipin’s electrifying runs on the wings will also give him the opportunity to show his predatory instincts and further maximize his output.

Edu Bedia (FC Goa)

Edu Bedia
Edu Bedia made the most passes among all players in the ISL 2020-21 season.

The Spaniard’s influence in this Goa squad has earned him the captain’s armband. Despite registering only three assists last season, he bears striking resemblance to a well-known Spanish regista in his ability to dictate the tempo of the game.

With a younger side this season, Edu Bedia can further show his technical finesse by facilitating the gameplay. Ferrando’s tactics allow him to regulate various areas of the pitch to supply balls to the attack and maintain a defensive cover. His passing efficiency is also a blessing in disguise. An already established team core should enhance his role and make him the player to watch out for.

Did You Know?

  • FC Goa are on a 15-match unbeaten run. Their defeat to Mumbai City FC in the semis last season came via a penalty shotout.
  • FC Goa boast the record of the biggest winning margin in the ISL. They thumped Mumbai City 7-0 at the Fatorda in 2015.
  • Mumbai won the ISL 2020-21 season with the highest goals scored (at 35) and the highest goal-difference.(at +17)

Telecast

The game between Mumbai City FC and FC Goa will take place at the Fatorda Stadium on November 22. The kick-off is at 7:30 pm IST. The match will be shown live on the Star Sports Network as well as live streamed on Disney+Hotstar and Jio TV.

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