Mumbai City are unbeaten in their two matches against ATK Mohun Bagan this season and have registered wins and clean sheets in both games…
Two teams that finished at the top of the league stage standings are set to be involved in the final of the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) on Saturday.
Mumbai City and ATK Mohun Bagan are well-deserved finalists in their own different ways. But for a start, both teams have managed to pick up wins regularly and had opened a gap between the top two and the rest of the lot in the points table a few matches into the season.
The early predictions of domination by two teams over the rest of the league turned out to be true as the Mariners and the Islanders continued to deliver displays that were on a whole another level throughout the campaign.
And now, with the teams set to spar again in the grand finale, the football aficionados in India will have another chance to witness two tactical minds go at each other and approach football in two different ways.
Sergio Lobera wanted his team to focus on scoring goals and was not too bothered about keeping clean sheets during his stint with FC Goa for the last three seasons. However, this season, the Spaniard has, more than once, uttered the term ‘balance’ during his conversations with the media.
Mumbai City has scored the most number of goals this season 37 goals in 22 matches, Interestingly, no team has kept more clean sheets as well, with the Islanders registering 10 clean sheets so far this season. Their fellow finalists Bagan also have the same tally of clean sheets, which was actually expected from an Antonio Habas side.
Mumbai City prefers building attacks from the back and wants to keep the ball ticking on the ground. Only FC Goa has played more passes than Mumbai this season whereas, for tackles and yellow cards, the Islanders’ name is top of the pile and that is an intention of their eagerness to retain possession when they lose the ball.
Hernan Santana has the best passing accuracy in the opposition half among players who have attempted a minimum of 50 passes in the opposition half. Ahmed Jahouh has a tackle success rate of 77.9 per cent, the best for any player who has attempted a minimum of 40 tackles this season – he has also committed the most fouls.
Antonio Habas, who has won the ISL title twice already in 2014 and 2020, has set his team up to be the toughest roadblock in the league. There is rarely an opening that allows opponents to score past their watertight three-man defence comprised of Pritam Kotal, Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan. Bagan boasts the best defence in the league – having conceded only 17 goals in 22 matches.
Habas has been criticised for his defence-first approach more than once this season but the keyword, according to him, is also balance. And it is their ability to score goals and shut shop at will that helped them keep picking up wins on their road to the final.
Bagan has lost only one of their last nine matches and have won six of those fixtures. Despite being tagged a ‘defensive’ team, the Mariners have players with the ability to make an impact in the game against the run of play and that shift in approach when needed, makes them dangerous for Lobera’s Mumbai City in a match like the final.
Roy Krishna, who has 14 goals and 7 assists to his name, has been involved in the most open play sequences resulting in a goal this season (17). He is also the player with the second-best difference between expected goals (+9.39) and actual goals scored (14) and the player with the best differential between expected assists (1.14) and actual assists (seven) in this ISL campaign.
It may not be quite ‘defence vs attack’ in the final, given the Mariners ability to threaten with quick counters. However, it still promises to be an intriguing contest.