ISL: Mumbai City FC's focus is on defence

Mumbai City FC’s major challenge in the Indian Super League this year is in attracting crowds for its home games in the absence of Diego Forlan and Sunil Chhetri.

Amerinder Singh, the winner of the Golden Glove last season, will be the star of Mumbai City FC this year too.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Fans follow famous faces, in other words big-match performers like Diego Forlan and Sunil Chhetri, who have the reputation for creating excitement at the goalmouth. Mumbai City FC’s major challenge in the Indian Super League this year is in attracting crowds for its home games in the absence of the Uruguayan World Cup star and the Indian national team captain. Forlan, who played for Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan, has called a halt to his Indian adventure after one season. He is now a free agent.

Chhetri will play for Bengaluru FC after two action-packed seasons on loan as finisher and creator.

Past performance

2016: Matches played: 16; Goals scored: 18; Top scorer: Diego Forlan; Result: reached semifinals.

2015: Matches played: 14; Goals scored: 16; Top scorer: Sunil Chhetri; Result: Finished sixth.

2014: Matches played: 14, Goals scored: 12, Top scorer: Andre Moritz; Result: Finished seventh.

Mumbai City FC, under coach Alexandre Guimaraes, chose to walk a different path by retaining experienced Indians and foreigners for the fifth season while doing away with marquee names as permitted under the new ISL regulations. Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, Gerson Viera and Lucas Golan in the backline, Leo Costa in the midfield are the players on whom the team depends heavily. After qualifying for the semifinals for the first ever time last season, the Costa Rican coach got a free hand in building the team.

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Indian midfielders Sehnaj Singh and Rakesh Oram (Under-21 category) were also retained.

This season, the Mumbai City FC stars start at the back, with the Golden Glove winner, Amrinder, a big name for the blue shirts. He kept five clean sheets in six appearances and has displayed leadership quality right through his career. The decision to retain centre-backs Viera (Brazil) and Golan (Romania) suggests that Guimaraes’ plans focus on defence.

The coach has also created various defence options by signing defender Marcio Rosario, midfielders Thiago Santos and Everton Santos, besides retaining linkmen Sehnaj and Rakesh from last season’s squad.

 

The team list is packed with an impressive array of local talent who will compete for the six first-team places assured for Indians, starting with goalkeeping where seasoned Arindam Bhattacharya is a capable replacement.

Other internationals with ISL experience are defenders Mehrajuddin Wadoo, playmaker Sanju Pradhan and striker Balwant Singh. Talented young Lalchhawnkima (defender), Sahil Tavora (midfielder) will make the task tougher for Guimaraes in deciding the first-choice players.

CELEBRITY SPEAK

Ranbir Kapoor

(Bollywood actor and Mumbai City FC co-owner)

“We are very excited with the new squad. Retention of some players from last season will definitely be a big boost. I believe that the exposure and training the team had in Spain will help us a lot this season. Ever since I was a kid I have been a big fan of the sport. So when the opportunity of owning a club presented itself, I didn’t have to think twice. The club is very dear to me, and I wish to see it become one of the best clubs in Asia.”

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