ISL 2020-21 Final preview: Can ATK Mohun Bagan finally get Mumbai City's measure?

ISL 2021 Final: It remains to be seen if ATKMB bears any of the scars from its defeats to MCFC, the second of these giving the latter the AFC Champions League slot.

ATKMB's Roy Krishna watches on as Mumbai City players celebrate the ISL Shield triumph.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

Sergio Lobera will be looking for his maiden Indian Super League (ISL) title while Antonio Habas will be keen to maintain his blemish-less record in ISL finals when Mumbai City FC takes on ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa on Saturday.

Mumbai head coach Lobera previously led FC Goa to a runner-up finish in the 2018-19 edition, losing the final to Bengaluru FC, while ATKMB’s Habas has a clean 2-0 record in summit clashes, having managed two trophies with ATK – prior to the merger with Mohun Bagan – including 2019-20.

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These are the two best sides in the competition, with identical records leading up to the playoffs – 12 wins, four defeats, four draws and 40 points each. But it remains to be seen if ATKMB bears any of the scars from its twin defeats to Mumbai.

The second of these (a 2-0 reverse) came on the last day of the league stage, with Lobera’s men pipping Habas to the coveted AFC Champions League slot. But the Mumbai coach stated that the matches would have no bearing on Saturday’s proceedings.

“It’s all in past; we need to look to the future,” Lobera said. “We know that they [ATKMB] are a very good team with very good players and have good momentum. But the most important thing is to focus on ourselves. We need to work 100% in our style of play and our idea,” he said.

Recent form in the semifinal playoffs will give ATKMB confidence. Where it defeated Khalid Jamil’s impressive NorthEast United FC 3-2 on aggregate in regulation time, Mumbai huffed and puffed against Goa and, in the end, needed to win a nerve-wracking penalty shootout to progress.

Lobera will also miss the seasoned wing-back Mandar Rao Dessai, who is out with a suspension, while Habas has a near-full squad to choose from. The only area of concern for ATKMB will be the state of midfielder Edu Garcia’s recovery from injury and whether he is match-fit.

The tie is also being billed as a clash of ideas between the two Spanish managers – Lobera’s pass-and-move football against Habas’ counter-attacking style. While the former’s approach is much loved – despite a recent sprinkling of pragmatism – the latter has had to fend off some light criticism for not being expansive enough. On match-eve, Habas was asked again and he refused to be drawn into the debate.

PODCAST - One game remains in the 2020-21 season of the Indian Super League. ATK Mohun Bagan will face off Mumbai City FC in a battle of the first timers this season. From how the two finalists stack up to if they were the best to get through in the first place, here's our analysis.

 

“ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City both have 40 points on top. The styles are different but we also play good football,” said Habas. “Football is not only about possession of the ball. Possession football dominates the world, but it doesn’t dominate football.”

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Of added interest will be Roy Krishna’s pursuit of the Golden Boot, which he narrowly missed out on last season. The ATKMB striker is tied with Goa’s Igor Angulo on 14 goals, and if he doesn’t score, Angulo will win by virtue of having a superior goals-scored to minutes-played ratio.

The race for the golden glove will also see an endgame, with Mumbai custodian Amrinder Singh and ATKMB’s Arindam Bhattacharja tied on 10 clean sheets. The latter is slightly ahead, having conceded fewer goals (16 to 20).