Mumbai City FC, perennial underachievers in the ISL, begin their 2018 campaign with a home game against Jamshedpur FC on Tuesday, 2nd October. This is a national holiday in India, due to it being the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and thus the Mumbai Football Arena should be packed to capacity for this game. The organisers have also slashed ticket prices by half in order to get more fans through the gates, and it should be an exciting encounter between two sides looking to mark their first games under new management.
Any new Portuguese manager on the block has a very big name hanging like the sword of Damocles over their heads – Jose Mourinho. We’ve had an umpteen number of “the next Mourinho” candidates enter management over the last decade or so, ever since the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ made his mark on European football, but Jorge Costa can claim to be the closest to a ‘Mourinho-lite’ there can be; not that the big man wants such comparisons.
Costa arrived in Mumbai after the previous incumbent Andre Guimares could only guide the Islanders to a 7th place finish last year; the Portuguese is expected to improve on that, with Mumbai’s defence needing immediate attention, having conceded 29 goals in 18 games. The club have recruited some of the best defenders in the ISL towards this end, with Subhashish Bose joining from Bengaluru, and Shouvik Ghose and Souvik Chakrabarti arriving from Tuesday’s opponents Jamshedpur. Quality has been added in midfield too, in the form of Paulo Machado and Rafael Bastos, while Senegalese forward Modou Sogou will be expected to shoulder the goalscoring burden. Costa’s side have had an impressive pre-season, remaining unbeaten across four games in which they scored 14 goals and conceded seven. Costa will be looking to strike the perfect balance between attack and defence, and fans of the Islanders can expect a much better showing this time around than in the previous campaign.
Costa is expected to send out Mumbai in a 4-4-1-1 formation, reminiscent of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. The side will stay compact out of possession, looking to deny their opponents space between the lines, while looking towards Machado, Bastos and Sogou to create and score. Captain Lucian Goian and new recruit Marko Klisura will form a formidable central defensive partnership, and it is worth keeping an eye out for midfield enforcer Sehnaj Singh; he has been making waves recently and will surely add to his five caps for India in the near future.
It’s all about Cahill
Jamshedpur FC made quite the statement in managing to snag Australian veteran Tim Cahill for the upcoming season. This was perhaps needed, as the departure of manager Steve Coppell for rivals ATK had somewhat dented the hopes of the Jamshedpur faithful. Spaniard Cesar Fernando, once of Albacete and Atletico Madrid, arrived in the Steel City to steady the ship and has brought a distinct Spanish influence with him. Four Spaniards have joined the Men of Steel this season, with Jamshedpur looking to play in an expansive fashion, and the likes of Carlos Calvo and Sergio Cidoncha will be expected to shoulder the creative burden and supply the bullets for Cahill up front. Fernando will have to do without his star player for this game though, as he is currently serving a suspension, as is veteran goalkeeper Subrata Paul. Their absence weakens an unfamiliar squad, and Jamshedpur will have to play very well to get something out of this game. History is on their side though, as Mumbai have not beaten them in both their meetings so far.
Subhashish Roy Chowdhury is expected to start between the sticks in Paul’s absence, while Tiri and Sanjay Balmuchu should start at centre-back. Dhanachandra Singh’s injury woes should mean that Yumnam Raju plays at left-back, with Robin Gurung on the opposite flank. The rest of the side is a little up in the air, but my picks are for Jerry, Calvo and Cidoncha to start in attacking midfield, with Memo and Arques anchoring and Sumeet Passi leading the line in Cahill’s absence.
I’m going for a 2-1 home win for the Islanders; they’ve had an excellent pre-season, and Costa has managed to mould them into a solid side capable of scoring goals as well. Jamshedpur’s absentees, and their relative unfamiliarity with Fernando’s methods should mean that this will be a bridge too far for the Men of Steel.