Mumbai City FC became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the Indian Super League 2016 after outplaying Chennaiyin FC and registering a 2-0 win. While most sides have struggled to put one quality forward on the pitch, Alexandre Guimares’ side have as many as four in Indian legend Sunil Chhetri, marquee signing Diego Forlan, Matias Defederico and Sony Norde.
The side has conceded the least number of goals in the league so far (8) and recently flattened a high-flying Kerala Blasters 5-0 at the Andheri Sports Complex. Chhetri, in a press conference in Mumbai, was keeping his feet on the ground and weighing his team’s chances, “We have good players and have been playing well. We are taking it one game at a time, and then see what happens next,” Chhetri said.
The topsy-turvy nature of the results didn’t go unnoticed by the Indian veteran, who backed his team’s rich vein of form to help his side get past Delhi Dynamos at the Andheri Sports Complex on December 3rd, “I don’t want to compare (with Delhi) but we have been playing well. Kerala had won two games at home and we beat them 5-0. Meanwhile, we lost (0-1 at home) to Goa. We are not complacent,” Chhetri added.
Indian football’s biggest focus over the past few months is the possibility of a merger between the domestic I-League and the ISL. A few weeks ago, Chhetri had recommended a unified league with 20 teams to be the ideal solution to the conundrum, which has seemingly destabilised the sides competing in the I-League.
Chhetri reiterated those thoughts yet again, “(Going forward) There should be one league and it would benefit everyone. The national team can also plan the international calendar accordingly. We don’t know how and when they are going to do it, but, this way, all states would be involved and there will be more opportunities to players and coaches,” the 32-year-old said.
Chettri’s opinion was seconded by Forlan, who said he was impressed with the Indian talent that he has seen so far and the facilities he has been provided with, “There are plenty of talented players like Sunil. There should be a league (that would last) for the whole year,” said Forlan but didn’t confirm whether he would take part in a longer ISL, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I would do for the next two years,” Forlan said.
The Uruguayan played as a No.9 position for much of his career before playing slightly behind the forward line for the national team after the emergence of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
The Uruguayan has been swapping roles with Chhetri in being the furthest man on the pitch for Mumbai, “For nine years I have been playing as a first striker but it depends on the team and the players. Now, when Sunil came back, sometimes he drops back and I finish. I like the freedom to play wherever I want to,” Forlan added.
The 37-year-old, whilst praising a number of his teammates singled out defender Lucian Goian when asked the reason for Mumbai being stingy at the back, hailing the Romanian’s displays as “exceptional”. After leading Bengaluru FC to the final of the AFC Cup, Chhetri’s year continues to get better.
When asked about the change in Mumbai’s fortunes, which has led to them entering the last-four of the competition for the first time, Chhetri pointed at an “united” dressing room, a stronger spine and Forlan’s influence in the side, “We just lost our track in between. There were three games that we won at home, and then we just lost the plot. There are few reasons why we are doing really well. One of the reasons is Diego. He is not only good on the pitch but but even off it, he’s been good with all the players, and his experience comes very handy,” India’s all-time top goalscorer said.