ISL 2021 kicks off on November 19th as finalists ATK Mohun Bagan faces arch-rivals Kerala Blasters while Mumbai City begins their title defence against Durand Cup champions FC Goa on 22nd November. The Islanders were dominant last season winning the ISL as well as the Winner’s Shield under coach Sergio Lobera.
However, Lobera has been replaced with another title-winning coach – Des Buckingham. The 36-year-old English coach was the interim coach for A-League double winners Melbourne City FC. He had also coached teams like Wellington Pheonix, Stoke City U23, New Zealand U-20 and U-23 teams and as a youth coach for Oxford United in 2004-14.
He employs a similar style of play and will most probably field a 4-2-3-1 formation. Also, they recently appointed Japanese Hiroshi Miyazawa as their assistant coach. Dany Deigen as strength and conditioning coach.
Since its inception on 30 August 2014, they qualified for playoffs three times so far, earlier in 2016 and 2018. However, they have been serious title contenders under the guidance of former FC Goa head coach Lobera. Last season, they finished with 12 wins, 4 losses and 4 draws in the league stage. Then, Mumbai went on to win the final against the Kolkata giants.
Additionally, they would be playing in the next edition of the AFC Champions League after winning the Winner’s Shield. Let’s now take a closer look at the ISL 2021-21 Mumbai City squad.
ISL 2021 Mumbai City : Exciting signings
Mumbai City have been active in the transfer market and have roped in some exciting additions. Foreign recruits include Golden boot winner Igor Angulo, Ygor Catatau, Brad Inman and Cassio Gabriel. While Apuia, Mohammad Nawaz, Rahul Bheke, Huidrom Naocha Singh, Jackichand Singh and Gurkirat Singh are the new Indian additions.
The experience of Moroccan midfielder Ahmed Jahouh, Angulo and Rahul Bheke would be key. However, Hugo Boumous departure means that Jahouh would have a little bit of work to do in the midfield department. Additionally, Asian spot player Inman has the chance to create an impact in the position which was left by Boumous.
Another key player leaving the Islanders is Amrinder Singh, who joined Kolkata heavyweights ATK Mohun Bagan. Penalty shootout winner Phurba Lachenpa or Mohammad Nawaz would be the new custodian and it could be a difficult task for the defence after Amrinder’s departure. However, the experience of Bheke and Mourtada Fall would be crucial.
Naocha had a brilliant season in the I-League with Gokulam Kerala FC finishing as the eventual winners. Lalengmawia Ralte and Vikram Pratap Singh would be the ones to look for this season while the former had a good run in the U-23 AFC Asia Cup qualifiers. The average age of the 28-member squad is 25.3 years and many promising youngsters would be keen on impressing on the big stage.
Bipin Singh was the only player to score a hat-trick last season. Alongside Angulo and Vikram Pratap Singh, the forwards are hungry for goals. Buckingham had a good start to his coaching career at the Mumbai side after winning 2-1 against Hyderabad FC in a pre-season friendly.
The squad has strengthened further but the situation of playing under a new head coach and a bunch of new arrivals has to be analysed. Mumbai have a balanced squad with a few experienced players who have been playing in the ISL and a lot of talented youngsters. Buckingham would be not expecting to win anything less than the league and Mumbai City have a squad to successfully defend their titles if everything goes well. Alongside Hyderabad, Goa and ATK Mohun Bagan, the Islanders are serious title contenders.
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