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Mumbai City Vs FC Goa: A clash of contrasting philosophies underpins second ISL playoff

Written by: Ajay A K

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As the semi-finals approach fast, India is bracing itself for a duel that resonates with the Jose Mourinho-Pep Guardiola rivalry.

As Mumbai and Goa prepare themselves for the playoffs an interesting battle looms.  In five years of ISL history, it is hard to pinpoint another playoff clash that has two teams that are so different. 

The fixture has a lot at stake. Ferran Corominas and Modou Sougou are in the race for the ISL 2018-19 Golden Boot while Arnold Issoko is playing catch-up to the former Espanyol striker in terms of number of assists in the tournament. But nothing stands out more than the tactical battle that is going to shape up in both Mumbai and Goa. As the playoffs approach fast, India is bracing itself for a duel that resonates with the Jose Mourinho-Pep Guardiola rivalry of the European lands - Jorge Costa’s Mumbai versus Sergio Lobera’s FC Goa.

The Gaur head coach hails from Spain and trained in the Barcelona school of thought, his team has shown an uncanny ability to dominate proceedings on the pitch keeping possession till an opportunity presents itself. With the likes of Ahmed Jahouh, Edu Bedia and Lenny Rodrigues controlling the midfield, the Spaniard has fashioned a highly offensive minded side that scares any team.  The Goans have been offensively untouchable which has led them to win four league games with a goal difference of three or more.

The offense spearheaded by the talented Ferran Corominas has put in a league-high of 36 goals in the opponents net. Defense was an issue for Lobera’s side, with Goa letting in as many as 14 goals in the first eight matches. But with a change in personnel in defense in the second part of the campaign, the Gaurs have managed to turn it around letting in only four goals in the last eight matches compared to 16 goals in the first 10. They ended the league phase with the second best defensive record in the league only behind Northeast United.

Sergio Lobera's attacking style has been reflected by Ferran Corominas' goals

Jorge Costa’s Mumbai City presents an antithesis of the Goan side. The Portuguese tactician came to Mumbai City after an illustrious playing career that saw him lift the Champions League with Jose Mourinho’s Porto. Having worked under one of the best managers in his nation, Jorge Costa’s style of football derives a lot from the former Manchester United gaffer.

He has developed a Mumbai City side that has no problems defending in numbers. But when the opportunity presents itself, the side breaks with quick and precise counter attacks that can be referred to as surgical strikes. The hard-drilled and tactically capable side has won 1-0, three times in the league phase, with two of the three occasions being against fellow play-off sides Bengaluru FC and Northeast United, showcasing the tenacity and resilience that the Islanders have under Jorge Costa.


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In terms of identity, both the teams are miles apart. While FC Goa holds the first spot for the number of passes per game this season with 529.17 passes per game, while Mumbai City find themselves in opposite end of the spectrum, at 10, with league-low of 328 passes per game. Despite the huge difference, the quality both the teams have put forth on the pitch has been exemplary. However, Mumbai City leads the league in tackles per game (30.78) and fouls per game (14.5) that depicts their never-give-up attitude in defense.

Jorge Costa's tactical brain has been well-led by Mumbai's skipper Lucian Goian

In terms of head-to-head record, Sergio Lobera holds the advantage over his Portuguese counterpart with two comprehensive wins both home and away in the league this season, which came without letting a single goal. However, both the matches were evenly poised for a significant amount of time before Goa broke free and turned rampant scoring seven goals in total.  This could be at the back of Costa’s mind when the Gaurs come to Mumbai for the first leg. Mumbai City are yet to lose a point in a game in which they have taken the lead and getting the lead will be their first priority come matchday.

It’s the classic match-up that awaits the Indian football lover. The clash of two extreme philosophies and a battle between two teams that have adopted these systems to the fullest. As possession-based football takes on quick and precise counterattacks, entertainment is something that is never compromised.

Published: Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:55 AM IST

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