On Friday, FC Goa take on Mumbai City FC in the first leg of the first semifinal in this season’s Indian Super League (ISL). While it does promise a lot of excitement for fans of both sides, the similarities between how the two teams approach their football also make it a battle of attrition where neither would give an inch. The two head coaches have a lot to think about as they go about plotting their opposition’s downfall and here are five key talking points that make this an intriguing battle.
The return of Hugo Boumous
The French-Moroccan midfielder has been the heartbeat of the Mumbai City attacking unit this term and even after missing games due to injuries and suspension, has notched up seven assists in 13 games apart from a couple of goals. He was suspended for the final four games of the league stages and would be itching to mark his return to the eleven with a telling goalmouth contribution. Having him available will also be a huge boost for Sergio Lobera as he looks to strike the right balance between his flair players and defensive pillars.
Alberto Noguera and Ivan Gonzalez’s absence
Noguera has the most number of assists this term with eight. That, after gradually establishing himself as a regular in the side during the intermittent absence of Brandon Fernandes and Jorge Ortiz. However, the Spaniard will miss out on the first leg of the semifinal after seeing red in the last game against Hyderabad FC. His compatriot Ivan Gonzalez too will be unavailable due to an accumulation of cards. It will be interesting to see how Juan Ferrando copes with their absence especially because he might also have to be without Seriton Fernandes who might have come in to replace Gonzalez.
The battle of the wingers
Both these sides boast of some of the best wingers in the league this season. While the Gaurs have Alexander Jesuraj and Jorge Ortiz, the Islanders will be depending on Bipin Singh and one of Cy Goddard and Adam Le Fondre on the flanks. Because of these two teams’ propensity to play attractive, quick-passing football at a high tempo, a lot of the attacking transitions might be brought to effect from the wings, especially if they both try and dominate the midfield numerically. As a result, the aforementioned names will have a huge role to play on the night.
Contrasting defensive form
When you compare the two teams, one area which stands out as FC Goa’s weakness is their defensive solidity or lack thereof. In the league stages, they conceded 23 goals and managed to keep just three clean sheets. They have also had to make a number of changes to their backline which hasn’t helped with their continuity. Ivan Gonzalez has been used as a makeshift right back in Seriton Fernandes’ absence and now both of them might be unavailable. Adil Khan has come in and hasn’t quite inspired huge confidence either. Add to that a young goalkeeper in the form of Dheeraj Singh and Goa’s job of stopping Bart Ogbeche and company looks all the more monumental. In contrast, Mumbai have a stable back four and a set double pivot in front of them who have played together all season and have a great understanding.
Indian talent galore
Of the 35 players that have been selected in the preliminary squad for India’s upcoming friendlies, as many as nine are set to feature in this match which should tell you all about the Indian talent at both these sides’ disposal. This includes Amrinder Singh, Dheeraj Singh, Adil Khan, Serotonin Fernandes, Mandar Rao, Rowllin Borges, Bipin Singh, Raynier Fernandes and Ishan Pandita. Besides them, the likes of Amey Ranawade, Pranjal Bhumij, Alexander Jesuraj, Redeem Tlang and Saviour Gama are the other youngsters who will most likely play a key role for their respective sides. What this also illustrates is that the Indian players in most ISL sides are now becoming the protagonists as opposed to earlier when they were quite happy playing second fiddle to the foreign recruits.