League Leaders Go Up Against The Odds As They Take On Seasoned Campaigners
In this second leg of the Indian Super League semi-final, Mumbai City FC will play the visiting Atletico De Kolkata at their home ground, the Mumbai Football Arena. The game is precariously poised since the first leg was won by ATK with a score line of 3-2. This score line is in no way indomitable and is, in fact, quite surmountable for an attacking team playing at home.
Mumbai City FC’s Strategy & Form
That description applies to Mumbai City FC but the Mumbaikars will hope that they can do justice to that description. The team that ended the ISL league phase at the top of the table was turned over in sensational fashion in the first leg of the semi-final.
Mumbai City FC doesn’t need to do a lot to achieve that since they already have two away goals to their name. The away goals mean that even a 1-0 score line in their favour will see them go through to the finals. However, as the last game showed, it is unlikely that this game will be a dull affair, regardless of how badly Atletico De Kolkata will want it to be like that.
Mumbai City FC, themselves, set out offensively in most games. Alexandre Guimares, the Mumbai coach, typically sets his team out in the 4-2-3-1 formation with special emphasis on attacking. Mumbai City FC has a free flowing style of play which relies heavily on passing the ball through their playmakers.
Defensively, Mumbai City FC is not that much of a tackling team. Instead, they try to cover passing lanes and intercept passes. In fact, they’re so proficient in interceptions that three of top four interceptors in the league are from Mumbai.
Mumbai City FC’s squad of interceptors is led by Lucian Goian who is also the leading interceptor in the league. He is also the leading tackler in the league. Goian fills multiple shoes for Mumbai City FC actually. Apart from intercepting and tackling, Goian is the leading aerial duel winner for Mumbai City FC.
The biggest challenge for Mumbai City FC in this game will be the absence of their marquee player, Diego Forlan. Forlan, as international football watchers will know, is a globally renowned Uruguayan striker. His absence will be due to two yellow cards in the last game.
Forlan will be missed because he is Mumbai City FC’s primary attacking outlet. He is their leading goal scorer as well as their leading shot taker. More importantly, he is their inspiration owing to his years of experience.
Forlan’s position in the team will be taken up by Matias Defederico, who should be rested since he didn’t start their last game. Defederico, himself, isn’t a chump with the ball since he already has three goals and three assists to his name.
Atletico De Kolkata’s Strategy & Form
Atletico De Kolkata has a different set of agendas in this game. They simply need to avoid a defeat in this game and they’ll be through to the final. It won’t be easy, however, because they’ll be playing away from home against a team that is very offensively savvy.
Fortunately, Atletico De Kolkata’s strategic approach should stand them in good stead. Like Mumbai City FC, they will also play the 4-2-3-1 formation, albeit in a defensive manner. Atletico De Kolkata will play defensive but they will still be on the lookout for counterattacking opportunities.
They will depend on their midfield maestro, Borja Fernandez, to release those quick counterattacks. Borja is the leading passer in the league which shows the kind of passing range he possesses. He also happens to be defensively proficient since he is the leading tackler for ATK.
Sergio Molina, Atletico De Kolkata’s manager, will instruct Borja and his midfield cohorts to try to release Iain Hume and Helder Postiga. Hume’s pace will particularly play a role in this game in Mumbai. Hume, in fact, was the difference between the two teams in the first leg of the semi-final. Before he decided to take the game by the scruff of its neck, Mumbai City FC were leading 2 – 1.
In this game, Hume’s pace will again play a crucial role. Moreover, Molina may even choose to return the well-rested Javi Lara Grande to his starting line-up purely on the basis of his pace and dribbling skills.
The Intellectual Capital or the Financial Capital?
In this game, we expect Atletico De Kolkata to try to shut down shop and sit back in banks of four to prevent Mumbai City FC from getting through balls off. It will be Mumbai City FC’s attack vs. Atletico De Kolkata’s defence and we expect the latter to prevail.
Atletico De Kolkata is far better placed for this game than Mumbai City FC for three reasons. The first is that they already have a lead to protect. The second is that they are very good in translating their strategic plans into practice on the pitch. And, the third is that even though Mumbai City FC is playing at home, their home turnouts have been mediocre at best.
Mumbai City FC fans are neither large in number nor very vocal. This means that the home advantage isn’t that effective for Mumbai City FC. Effectively, Atletico De Kolkata will not feel any hostility or pressure from the opposing fans in this game. Thus, our prediction is a scoring draw in this game which will put Atletico De Kolkata into the finals to be held in Kochi.a