Mumbai City FC will begin their title defence as they lock horns with one of the contenders for this season's Indian Super League, FC Goa. The two sides have gradually developed a rivalry in the last couple of seasons and fans will hope that once again they get to see a very feisty football from both sides.
It has been a bizarre start to the new ISL season as the fans have already witnessed a lot of goals in the first few matches and it won't be surprising if these two teams continue that trend. Both Mumbai City and FC Goa have high ambitions for this season and a good start is ideal for any team looking to get going. But there are plenty of factors in this game that will determine the outcome. Therefore we at The Bridge point out the things that we can expect from this high voltage clash.
Igor Angulo to face his former side
Mumbai City FC vs FC Goa in recent times have been a rivalry to savour for the fans. This year also is no different as Igor Angulo has jumped ship to join the Islanders after winning the Golden Boot in his inaugural ISL season with FC Goa. Angulo's injury woes from last season saw Jorge Ortiz steal his limelight upfront. Despite missing several matches through the season, the 37-yeard-old still managed to finish the season as the highest scorer.
It will be interesting to see how Angulo fares up against his old teammates from last season. Especially the likes of Ivan Gonzalez and Edu Bedia. While Angulo will want to make a statement by scoring against the Gaurs, Ivan Gonzalez will also have some tricks up his sleeve as his former teammate. So that battle will be interesting to see and may probably determine the outcome of this match.
Des Buckingham to follow Sergio Lobera's footsteps
Sergio Lobera's sudden departure has been a blow to Mumbai City's title defence. But with everything set in place for the new season, they can rest assured that Buckingham is as good as it gets as Lobera's successor. The 36-year-old Englishman from Oxford may not come with Spanish DNA but his philosophy as a coach is not much different from that of his predecessor. It will be a challenge for the English tactician to stand up to a very demanding job, especially when he has not got much experience as a head coach.
But Buckingham has a great foundation as an assistant coach and his experience in working at the grassroots level will only help him deal with young players in Mumbai City. His expressive style of play was evident when he managed the New Zealand side at the U-20 World Cup in 2019 as he guided them to the knockouts which were the best ever finish for the Kiwis at any FIFA event. In press interaction, he has recently told that he wants people to turn on their television sets to watch Mumbai City play. That is something that should make the fans happy heading into a new season.
Can Airam Cabrera be FC Goa's new talisman?
FC Goa have replaced Igor Angulo with another Spaniard, Airam Cabrera. The former Cadiz man joins the club to make players like Ferrand Corominas and Igor Angulo household names in Indian football. So there will be a lot of pressure on Airam to deliver up to expectations and if possible even exceed it. However, the 34-year-old has claimed that he is not here to replicate someone else's legacy rather he is here to write his own.
Overall it will be a huge challenge for him to step up and hand Goa an excellent start to the season especially in absence of Jorge Ortiz who picked up an injury during the Durand Cup and will miss the start of the season. So it further amplifies Airam Cabrera's role in his Goa setup. While he can rest assured that he will get a lot of chances with Bedia, Alberto Noguera and Brandon Fernandes all featuring in the starting lineup. If Airam clicks right from the get-go then the gaurs will be the team to beat this season.
Whenever Mumbai City takes on FC Goa, the match is mostly decided in midfield. It will be a delight for all the fans to watch so many great midfield all at once. While Goa's midfield will be led by their captain Edu Bedia, Mumbai will look to win the battle courtesy of their midfield maestro Ahmed Jahouh. it will be an interesting battle among two former players that can very well decide the outcome of this game.
The influence of players like Alberto Noguera, Glan Martins and Brandon Fernandes will also be crucial for Goa. Whereas the new inclusion of Apuia may change a lot of scenarios for the Islanders. Some fans will also be eager to witness the Samba Magic of Cassinho who is all set to take up the void left by Hugo Boumous. Overall, whichever gets the nod in midfield should win this encounter considering they gain more control in the middle.
No Jorge Ortiz for Goa?
Probably the biggest blow at the start of the season for the Gaurs as their talisman, Jorge Ortiz is all set to miss the first few games this season. The Spaniard picked up an injury in their Durand Cup clash against Sudeva Delhi following a reckless tackle and it ruled him out of the tournament and also raised questions on his future. The 29-year-old's recovery is in the process as he looks to return to action for the Gaurs.
While Ortiz scored six goals along with three assists in the ISL last season, his impact as a player was way more than his goals. His ability to roam freely and pull out defenders from their positions was very effective as it allowed others to capitalise on that space in the final third. He offered great fluidity to Ferrando's system and even scored a historic goal against Al Rayyan SC in their AFC Asian Champions League campaign. Ferrando and everyone associated with Goa will be hoping for a quick return as Ortiz has that ability to take the Gaurs to greater heights this season.
Probable Starting Lineup
Mumbai City FC: Mohamed Nawaz, Amey Ranwade, Rahul Bheke, Mourtada Fall, Mandar Rao Dessai, Ahmed Jahouh, Apuia, Raynier Fernandes, Cassinho, Bipin Singh, Igor Angulo.
FC Goa: Dheeraj Singh, Seriton Fernandes, Ivan Gonzalez, Aiban Dohling, Sanson Pereira, Edu Bedia, Glan Martins, Romario Jesuraj, Alberto Noguera, Brandon Fernandes, Airam Cabrera.