ISL 2021-22: Mumbai City begins title defence with battle against FC Goa

A refreshed Mumbai City FC will begin its shield and title double defence when it takes on FC Goa in the Indian Super League clash (ISL 2021-22) at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao on Monday.

Club captain and no. 1 goalkeeper Amrinder Singh was released in the summer, while among the overseas players, Mumbai City has only retained defender Mourtada Fall and midfielder Ahmed Jahouh from the title-winning season. Head coach Sergio Lobera was replaced by Des Buckingham a little over a month back.

The club โ€“ part of the City Football Group โ€“ will hope to start sharp against Goa, which won the Durand Cup with a near-full strength squad last month.

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With the addition of last seasonโ€™s emerging player of the year, Lalengmawia, Mumbai City boasts a set of youthful domestic players, who are ready to step up again.

Fall, who was named captain earlier this week, said the playing style will persist despite the change in the coaching set-up. โ€œOur style of play — it’s similar but the coach brings a bit more than what we had last season,โ€ said the 33-year-old centre-back.

No team has successfully defended the title in the short history of the league and the challenge for Buckingham will be to motivate the side to do it all over again. โ€œWe asked that question to the players. We can either look at our success last season and be satisfied with winning one championship and one final, or we actually build upon that and try and continue building our club,โ€ said the 36-year-old.

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Juan Ferrandoโ€™s Goa finished fourth last season before exiting the playoffs in a penalty shoot-out to Mumbai City in the semifinals. Goa has a good mix of youthful domestic and experienced overseas players, who have settled into the Spaniardโ€™s style of attacking football. The three-month-long pre-season will hold Goa in good stead compared to its competitors.

โ€œI think the most important thing for me in this moment is the team is clear on mentality in attack and defense. I hope in our plan, we see a big effort from the players, and they enjoy on the pitch,” said Ferrando.

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