Mumbai City FC and Odisha FC have little in common when it comes to footballing philosophies.
Mumbai, under coach Jorge Costa (a tough-tackling midfielder who captain FC Porto to Champions League glory in 2004) are a reflection of their coach: a well-organised team, quite tough to beat. Odisha, who are coached by former Barcelona youth coach Josep Gombau, play a possession-based game and put a large emphasis on their football philosophy.
In this clash of footballing contrasts on Thursday, Costa’s men will hold the edge in Mumbai after two positive results in their opening matches.
“The football we play is the style we want to play,” coach Gombau said ahead of the game against Mumbai City FC. “It’s the way I learnt to play football and it’s the way I teach football. So we are not going to change the way we play. We believe we can get positive results playing this way.”
Odisha, under Gombau, have toppled most teams in the possession charts but have failed to convert it into goals, winning just four out of the 20 matches played under the Spaniard who took over the team last season when the franchise played as Delhi Dynamos.
After failing to win their first 11 matches last season, Gombau’s men fared much better in the remainder of the season where they got those four wins under their new manager. However, their resurgence came too late as they missed out on a place in the playoffs.
The pattern seems to be repeating this season as well with Odisha enjoying more possession in their two away games against Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC but ending up on the losing side.
On Thursday, they are up against a Mumbai City FC who rarely prioritise ball-possession and adopt a more direct approach. Unlike widely portrayed, Mumbai City FC are not a negative team but play highly pragmatic football.
The approach has yielded success for the Islanders who reached the semi-finals last season and were only truly second-best to FC Goa who beat them on three occasions last season. Mumbai collected four points from their matches against champions Bengaluru FC.
This season, the usual slow-starters have begun well pouching four points from their two away games against Kerala Blasters and Chennaiyin FC.
At home, Mumbai had an average record last season winning five out of the 10 matches, while losing on four occasions. The other game ended in a draw. Out of the four losses two came against FC Goa.
So, Odisha FC who have been highly inefficient this season will have their task cut out against Mumbai City FC that are anything but profligate.
Both teams have key men suspended for the clash at the Mumbai Football Arena. Mumbai will be without right-back Souvik Chakraborty who was sent off in their 0-0 draw in Chennai. Odisha will miss Carlos Delgado who received a straight red card against NorthEast United.
Apart from the suspensions, Mumbai City have plenty of injury concerns with Mateo Grgic ruled out for several weeks with a knee injury, striker Modou Sougou, who injured himself against Chennaiyin, a major doubt and captain Paulo Machado also recovering.
However, it hasn’t bothered coach Costa too much.
“Thankfully I have 25 players and not eleven players,” the Mumbai City FC manager said. “I trust all the players to do the job and hence we don’t have a starting eleven. We have a squad and we will go with the strongest possible team [on Thursday].”
The tactical battle
The injuries and suspensions mean Mumbai City are set to go with an all-Indian backline. Amrinder Singh, who has been in terrific form, will start in goal behind a likely back four of Subhashish Bose, Pratik Choudhary, Sarthak Golui and Valpui.
Costa would in all probability stick with his 4-3-3 formation with Rowllin Borges and Raynier Fernandes sitting possibly behind Machado who is expected to shrug off his injury to start.
Upfront, Diego Carlos, Mohamed Larbi and Amine Chermiti are likely to form the attack.
For Odisha, Gombau is unlikely to tinker with his shape and stick to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Gaurav Bora is likely to deputise for the suspended Delgado, with the rest of the team expected to stay the same.
Xisco Hernandez, Nadhakumar Sekar and Jerry Mawhmingthanga will play behind Adrine Santana in attack ahead of a double pivot of Vinit Rai and Marcos Tebar.
Mumbai City’s defence, however, will have their task cut out against Odisha’s frontline who have shown promise in the last few games. Santana did open his account in their first game against Jamshedpur and thus would feel confident ahead of this match.
The Mumbai rearguard did keep a clean sheet in Chennai but conceded plenty of chances. Against Odisha, who are expected, to have more of the ball, concentration will be key for the home side.
The game is likely to be won and lost in midfield. Borges and Raynier are quite capable of performing the double task of protecting the defence and picking out passes behind the Odisha midfield and defensive lines.
At the other end, the pace in Mumbai City’s attack would give them an advantage.
Odisha would need to be at their clinical best to break their duck this season with Mumbai City already showing twice this season their ability to grind out results under pressure. The Islanders have always been a hard team to beat at the Mumbai Football Arena.
In this clash of ideologies, the pragmatic hosts hold a clear edge, but can Odisha FC finally add substance to style and get their season up and running? An interesting match awaits.