FC Goa and Mumbai City FC clash in the second semi-finals of the Indian Super League with the latter hosting the first leg.

The Gaurs have reached their fourth semi-final in five years, but have only made the final once, losing 2-3 to Chennaiyin FC in 2015. Mumbai will also host this year’s final, an added incentive for the Islanders to reach their first-ever summit clash.

Mumbai’s campaign, which at one point put them on course to finish top of the league, saw them stutter towards the end, finishing third and drawing Goa, who they are yet to score against this season.

In numbers

Mumbai City Goa
Goals 25 36
Wins 9 10
Draws 3 4
Losses 6 4
Clean Sheets 7 8
Top scorer Modou Sougou -12 Coro - 15
Highest assists Arnold Issoko - 6 Coro - 7
Highest saves Amrinder Singh - 55 Mohammad Nawaz - 35
Highest passes Paulo Machado - 821 Ahmed Jahouh - 1300
Highest interceptions Sauvik Chakrabarti - 34 Ahmed Jahouh - 31

Mumbai City head coach Jorge Costa knows all too well the feeling of losing to Goa. They collapsed to a 5-0 loss in Goa, their worst defeat of the season, as Coro and Miguel Palanca bagged braces for the home team.

A run of nine unbeaten matches followed that loss, as Mumbai City’s defence tightened up with Modou Sougou and Arnold Issoko creating chances and taking them at the other end. The highlight of that run was the 1-0 win over Bengaluru FC, ending the latter’s undefeated season till that game.

Sergio Lobera’s Goa came to Mumbai and ended that run with a 2-0 win in Andheri, keeping their second half resurgence going. That loss triggered a sequence of five matches in which they won only one, earning no points from the rest.

Goa definitely hold the bragging rights over their semi-final opponents, having scored seven and conceded none in the league stage.

Having reached the semis last time around only to capitulate in Chennai, a final finish and a shot at a possible title will have been the Goa’s aim at the start of the season. They have put in a lot of work to that end, keeping five clean sheets for a club not known for their defensive prowess.

A 3-0 loss despite being a man up against Bengaluru exposed old frailties, as Lobera’s tactical tweaks failed to keep his side at top of the league table. They have entertained once again, scoring the highest number goals in the league (36), but it will all be in vain, if a final spot eluded Goa once again.

Mumbai city coach Jorge Costa on the semi-finals being a different proposition: This is not a league game, we’ve got two games (home and away). This is like the Champions League. Honestly, we will definitely have a different game tomorrow. The players have worked hard like always and we are very focused. We want a lot more and that means playing the ISL final. It won’t be easy but that’s our next target. The team that makes less mistakes will play the final. It’ll be a good game tomorrow.

Mumbai City's points progression through the season. (Image courtesy: ISL Media)
Mumbai City's points progression through the season. (Image courtesy: ISL Media)

That said, Goa’s eight clean sheets are the joint-highest in the league, with Lobera opting to pair up Mourtada Fall with Carlos Pena at the heart of defence. The key to Goa’s play has been Ahmed Jahouh, linking up attack with defence. Jahouh’s ball retention and distribution skills make him pivotal to his side’s plans.

The Goan attack’s effectiveness comes from the several paths the team can take towards goal. Edu Bedia has sparkled in the number 10 role, delivering seven goals and four assists. Coro’s numbers have been staggering for a second season running. When the Spaniard is not scoring, rare given that he has 15 goals and the Golden Boot, he is a creator with seven assists. Brandon Fernandes and Jackichand Singh have pace to burn, and for Goa, attack is the best form of defence.

For Mumbai, the key could be to block off Goa’s supply line, and have Jahouh closely watched. Goa have shown a tendency to struggle when their all-action Moroccan midfielder has been taken out of the game, as in the 4-1 loss in Jamshedpur earlier this season.

The danger for Goa in the semi-final will be two-fold in the form of Sougou and Issoko. The latter, responsible for creating most of his side’s chances, will operate from the left, and is likely to keep Mandar Rao Dessai on his toes for most of the evening.

Goa's points progression through the season. (Image courtesy: ISL Media)
Goa's points progression through the season. (Image courtesy: ISL Media)

Mumbai have scored 11 goals on the counter, using Sougou’s raw pace as a finisher. The Senegalese has two hat-tricks to his name, and is his team’s top scorer with 12.

Goa are poor travellers, earning the least number of points of the top four away from home (12) but have the depth in attack to trouble Mumbai City. A record of seven wins at home out of nine for Goa will mean that Mumbai City have to take a first leg lead when they travel to Fatorda.

FC Goa assistant coach Jesus Tato on the two wins over Goa: It is something we have spoken about inside the dressing room. We know that was during the league stage. But now it is a completely different story. We are in the semi-finals now. With 180 minutes, it will be very tough. The little details will count and make the difference. We have to leave what happened in the league stages and focus on this