ISL 2019-20: Can Mumbai City FC go the distance this time?

There has been some tweaking in the Mumbai City FC team this season and captain Paulo Machado expects his side to make it to the finals.

Mohammed Rafique, Pratik Chaudhari, Modou Sougou, Paulo Machado (captain), Amine Chermiti and Rowllin Borges at the Worli Seaface, in Mumbai. A losing semi-finalist last season, Mumbai is eyeing the crown this year.   -  PTI

The Indian Super League is all about playing smart and fearless football. That’s how it has been for the last five years. Shrugging off the disappointments, teams have started afresh every season in a bid to make some impact.

For Mumbai City FC, however, life has been tough as the league title has so far eluded the side. Ever since its inception in 2014, the outfit has brought in some big names like Nicolas Anelka and Diego Forlan — but that hardly has had any impact on the team’s show.

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Last season, the side did make a few changes and brought in Jorge Costa as the coach. While that move did help the team in displaying some quality football, Mumbai’s blistering campaign ended in the semifinals after a heartbreaking loss to FC Goa — which later lost to Bengaluru FC in the final.

And as another season beckons, the Mumbai outfit has once again kept faith in Costa, and under his guidance, the team hopes to turn the tide. The outfit has already played five pre-season games in Mumbai — this is the first time it had its pre-season camp in India — and players and the support staff are confident of getting better results this time around.

There has been some tweaking in the team and captain Paulo Machado expects it to make it to the finals. “This season, we expect to be in the top four again. We have a better team and we will see (the performance) when we start (the campaign),” the central midfielder from Portugal says.

While in a tournament like the ISL, there are hardly any favourites, Mumbai City FC will heavily rely on its star recruit, Modou Sougou, who netted 12 goals last season.

The focus will also be on the side’s new faces — Tunisian striker Amine Chermiti, Croatian central defender Mato Grcic and Indian internationals Rowllin Borges and Sarthak Golui.

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However, the side will miss Arnold Issoko, who signed for French club SM Caen. The bustling Congo defender launched counter-attacks and linked up with Sougou.

But young talents like Borges — who spent three seasons with the Northeast United FC — will be hoping to make every opportunity count.

Last season we did very well, but that is not enough, we want to win. At present, we don’t have any idea about other teams, but I am happy with the players they (the franchise) gave me to work with… I do not believe in taking players’ names and putting pressure on one person. We approach the task as a playing unit.

— Jorge Costa, coach

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