NEW DELHI: After 114 days of non-stop action, the summit clash of the ISL is upon us. And the two contenders who will face off at the Fatorda Stadium on Saturday Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan have been by far the most consistent sides in the tournament and deserve to be in the final. Both clubs came into the final with identical records, 12 wins and just 4 defeats in the league stage.
While the game not only features big-name players, it is also a battle between two tactically astute managers employing vastly different footballing philosophies. Sergio Lobera’s side are known for their adherence to keeping possession of the ball and their emphasis on attacking play. This will be his second final, after leading FC Goa to a runners-up finish in season five.
Their possession stats are second only to FC Goa and the Islanders have scored 37 goals in 22 matches, most among all teams. What they have added this term is defensive steel with the team registering 10 clean sheets so far, joint top along with their opponents. Having beaten the Mariners twice already this season, including in the final league game, Mumbai will enter the final full of confidence.
“I think when you play against good teams, it’s not only about what you want. Playing against a team who have the same style, sometimes it’s not possible for everything to work during 90 minutes. But we compete very well in the bad moments and this is the most important thing. Finally, it (the style of play) is the most important thing. If you’re playing in another way, you are not the strongest.
Our style of play from the beginning has been the same and we have to be loyal to our style if we want to be strong,” he said. On the other hand, Antonio Habas and his ATKMB side are the antithesis of their opposition. Their watertight defence boasts the best defensive record in the league, having conceded only 17 goals in 22 matches. Their tactic of gaining the lead and sitting back and protecting that lead has worked wonders with a 1-0 scoreline seen in six games. The wily Spaniard has already won the competition twice (2014 and 2020) and is gunning for consecutive crowns.
“In football, every match is different. The idea is to play well and win. Sometimes, the characteristics in a match are different. The styles are different but we also play good football. Football is not only about possession of the ball. I think the difference is minimal and I have confidence in my team. The idea is to be the protagonists with a possibility to win,” Habas said.
That is not the only thing left to be decided as the summit clash will also decide the fate of the golden boot and golden glove winners. While Bagan striker Roy Krishna and Goa’s Igor Angulo are tied on 14 goals, a goal will hand the award to the Fijian, who has played more minutes than the Spaniard.