Sergio Lobera and Juan Ferrando may need to tinker their teams to get the best football out…
When Mumbai City played NorthEast United in their first match of the season, Sergio Lobera’s team was all about keeping the ball and dominating the midfield. That’s how Lobera’s teams have always been and nobody expects that to change when the Islanders come up against his former employers FC Goa, now managed by Juan Ferrando.
Interestingly, Ferrando’s Gaurs did not look too dissimilar in their first outing – an interesting 2-2 draw against Bengaluru FC. They were just as defensively vulnerable as Lobera’s team was in its first season.
However, Ferrando was able to pull the right strings by bringing on Alberto Noguera, Brandon Fernandes and Alexander Jesuraj in the second half, giving them just enough time to mount a comeback and make it 2-2 from 0-2 in the space of just 12 minutes.
It will be an interesting battle when these two teams face off against each other but there are some strategies that may need to be redesigned to get the maximum out of each squad.
For Mumbai City, Lobera will need to replace Ahmed Jahouh in the midfield – that is easier said than done. Jahouh was an irreplaceable member of Goa’s midfield during Lobera’s three years at his previous club and will continue to be the same at Mumbai City.
But his impulsive sliding tackle on Khassa Camara in Islanders’ first match resulted in a sending off that nobody saw coming. Up until then, Jahouh ran the show in the centre, dropping deep to receive passes, turning and feeding the attackers with cross-field diagonals, through-balls and what not. He was everywhere and then suddenly, he was nowhere due to a silly decision just before the break.
Lobera’s blessed with a strong squad but there is no direct replacement to the Moroccan midfielder in that team. This could mean a deeper role for Boumous or Hernan Santana could be deployed in Jahouh’s role with Mourtada Fall playing in defence. Anyway, Mumbai’s midfield is an area that will be closely monitored by the opponents.
The Spanish coach also needs to figure out how to use Adam Le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche together effectively. They are two top strikers but can they play together in Lobera’s system? Neither of them had an impact against an organised defence set up by Gerard Nus but against Goa, there will be chances and space to operate.
Ferrando, on the other hand, will be hoping his Indian players can step up and outperform their counterparts against Mumbai City. Brandon and Jesuraj will hope to start the big game following their impressive cameos last game. The defence will need to be more alert than when they went to sleep and allowed Juanan to ghost into the box and score Bengaluru’s second goal in their first game.
Upfront, if Brandon can keep creating chances, there is an assurance that they will be converted, based on how two-goal hero Igor Angulo performed on his debut.