Sergio Lobera’s Mumbai city is set to face FC Goa for the second time this season in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 on Monday. The Islanders lead the standings after 15 games with 33 points in their pocket. They face a remarkably third and top-four chasing team despite their head coach and several key players who left the club last season.
The preseason for the 2020-21 campaign has been an uncertain time for Goa supporters. They didn’t know what to expect from the team.
Sergio Lobera, who had taken the team to new levels and helped them clinch a first place in the AFC Champions League by finishing first in the league table, was sacked before the end of the season. He joined Mumbai City as head coach this summer and several key players, such as Ahmed Jahouh, Hugo Boumous, Mourtada Fall and then club captain Mandar Rao Dessai followed the gaffer in his new club.
Losing a coach to another ISL club is huge, but losing several key players is also even more difficult for supporters to accept. Boumous was the club’s star of the season with an incredible comeback of 11 goals and 10 assists in 15 appearances as the Gaurs topped the table.
But ahead of Goa’s draw against Mumbai City, when Lobera takes a look at the Gaur’s latest starting lineup, he will only find one recognizable face, which was a regular during his tenure at the club.
Full-backs Savior Gama, Seriton Fernandes and midfielder Edu Bedia are the last remaining pieces of the FC Goa squad that Lobera has built. Ferrando came in and reorganized the team to suit his methods and found moderate success, but not without problems and injuries, at the club. However, of the three, only Fernandes was a regular at Lobera in the starting XI.
Igor Angulo, who replaced Ferran Corominas, already has 10 goals in 14 appearances this season. The midfielder once led by Ahmed Jahouh is currently led by Alberto Noguera and Edu Bedia whose influence has weakened over time under Lobera.
With Brandon Fernandes injured, the creative mantle has been taken over by Jorge Ortiz and Noguera. Ortiz has a flair to create something from scratch and Noguera has recorded six assists so far in ISL, which is currently the highest total with that of Boumous.
Lenny Rodrigues, who also played a key midfield role under the former gaffer, has left the club to join ATK Mohun Bagan. In his place, the Gaurs brought in the young Indian talent of Amarjit Singh. And in goal Mohammad Nawaz is out in the cold ahead of a summer move from Goa and another youngster Dheeraj Singh has joined as Ferrando’s keeper.
Jackichand Singh, who has played a key role in two out of three seasons with Lobera, has been replaced by ex-Chennai City winger Alexander Romario, who has seamlessly inserted and looks very impressive on the flank law. The Manipuri winger has, in fact, reconnected with Lobera in Mumbai City during the January transfer window.
The youngsters of FC Goa are also starting to appear a lot more, as part of Ferrando’s politics. Princeton Rebello has already started eight games for the club and Gama, who had a start last season, has started every game under Ferrando.
Lobera has undoubtedly had a major impact at FC Goa. However, this FC Goa is Ferrando’s team from start to finish, because the set of players has changed.
The system has produced mixed results so far – they are undefeated in eight games but have drawn four in a row. But they’re very much in the race for the playoffs and that’s where the fans want them to be at this point in the season. The jury is still out, but they are in desperate need of results if they are to advance to the play-offs. And the first step to do so would be against league leaders Mumbai City FC.