KOCHI: Talks about Manchester City’s owners buying Mumbai City FC did the rounds last month and generated quite a buzz. Mumbai City coach Jorge Costa pleaded ignorance over the matter and the City stories have taken a backseat as their season kick-starts against Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi on Thursday.
“I don’t know all the things that happen at the club,” said Costa at the pre-match press conference. What Costa will know is that he’ll have to set up his team to stop Kerala Blasters who have started the season with a win over ATK. On paper, it’s tough to call a winner. For starters, Blasters will have the home advantage, and with an average turnout of over 37000 for their games, the home team will be extra-motivated. Against ATK, the official attendance was 36,298. They have momentum a match-winner in the form of Bartholomew Ogbeche.
Trailing 1-0 after six minutes, they rallied to win 2-1 with Ogbeche scoring a brace and they did that without the services of the talismanic Sandesh Jhingan and first-choice goalkeeper TP Rehenesh. “The last win was a top result. Whether we were lucky with the referee or whatever it was, it was a top result against a good team. Why? Because of the inconsistencies we had in pre-season, where the centre-backs and the midfielders didn’t have any relationships. Sahal (Abdul Samad) was away for four weeks and we lost Sandesh to injury,” said Blasters coach Eelco Schattorie.
Mumbai FC meanwhile have added some ammunition to their attack and can be a threat to any defence in the league. Their most notable acquisition is Tunisian forward Amine Chermiti, who has played in the German Bundesliga with Hertha BSC and appeared in the UEFA Champions League with FC Zurich.
They have also solidified their midfield by signing India international Rowllin Borges from NorthEast United. They have signed a total of 13 new players while nine have departed. According to Schattorie, there is a certain mystery factor to Mumbai City since they are yet to play. Costa himself admitted that it could be an advantage. “It’s true, they don’t know what we can do and what we will do.” As far as Blasters are concerned, there will likely be no surprises. They are expected to field the same playing eleven that played against ATK.
Given that Sahal missed four weeks of pre-season, the midfielder could once again find himself on the bench. All eyes will be on Mumbai City and what they bring to the table. “This coach (Costa) looks to play on the counter but how the positions are filled in and which quality players will play, that is a question mark if you don’t have a chance to see them play. I’m not gonna say huge, but it’s a big advantage that they saw us play already,” said Schattorie.