ISL 2023-24: Habas turns up in training ahead of Mohun Bagan-Mumbai City showdown

Left: Dimi Petratos and Armando Sadiku. Right: Lallianzuala Chhangte. Source: ISL

Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonio Lopez Habas couldn’t confine himself within the four walls. Despite not being fully recovered, the Spanish coach visited the Salt Lake training ground on the eve of the ISL League Shield decider to oversee the Mariners’ final preparations before their showdown against Shield defenders Mumbai City FC.

Habas couldn’t forget that three years ago, as the head coach of the green and maroon brigade, they lost the ISL League Shield to Mumbai City FC due to the latter’s superior goal difference. Though Habas and his boys had a chance to lift the championship, the Islanders dashed their hopes, edging past the Kolkata giants to lift the ISL trophy. This time, although there’s uncertainty about Habas’s presence in the dug-out during the match, his boys are determined to give their all for the League Shield in front of the home fans.

“Tomorrow we will see if he (Habas) will be on the bench or not. He is still recovering, but he is doing well. Of course, we have missed him. Despite all the setbacks, we want to do it for all Mohun Bagan fans,” Manuel Cascallana, Habas’s deputy, said at the pre-match press conference.

Mohun Bagan are trailing Mumbai City FC by two points, having played the same number of matches. Hence, it’s a must-win game for the hosts, while a draw will be enough for Mumbai City to clinch the prestigious ISL Shield.

In the ISL, Mohun Bagan have never beaten Mumbai City FC, with their biggest loss being 5-1 to the Islanders in 2021. However, the Mariners will draw confidence from their last encounter against Mumbai City at Salt Lake Stadium at the Durand Cup, where they stunned the visitors 3-1 in front of a capacity crowd.

This time, too, the ISL League Shield decider expects a full house, with the Mohun Bagan Super Giant management releasing 60,000 tickets. There’s a buzzing excitement among the Mariners as they don’t want to miss the blockbuster clash.

“For sure, it’s an advantage for us. We will play at home in front of a packed stadium and that atmosphere will be better for us. We are excited to play in front of them,” Manuel remarked on getting the home support in the Shield decider.

Both teams are coming off big wins, boosting their confidence ahead of the high-voltage clash. The Islanders, unbeaten in their last nine games, trumped Odisha FC 2-1 in a thrilling encounter, while Mohun Bagan thrashed Bengaluru FC 4-0, reclaiming their momentum after a lackluster display against Punjab (1-0 win) and Chennaiyin (3-2 defeat).

Mumbai City FC. Source: ISL

Players to watch out for:

Lallianzuala Chhangte

Mohun Bagan’s defence will have to keep a close eye on Lallianzuala Chhangte, whose quick runs down the flanks and astute composure can torment any backline. The Mizo winger scored a goal and provided an assist in Mumbai City’s last game against Odisha FC. He has been in red-hot form, tallying six goals and as many assists.

Manvir Singh

It’s a do-or-die game for the home side and they will push to find the back of the net. They draw confidence from the fact that from Armando Sadiku to Manvir Singh, all their forwards have been in goal-scoring form. Once again, there will be added responsibilities on Manvir, who shoulders the overloaded duties down the flanks. Manvir was in splendid form in the last game, scoring a goal and providing an assist.

Injuries and card problems:

Mohun Bagan will once again miss the services of Sahal Abdul Samad in this heavyweight clash, as the Keralite midfielder is yet to recover from his hamstring injury sustained during the national team camp in Abha last month.

Mumbai will miss their goal-scoring machine, Vikram Partap Singh, who has seven goals and three assists to his name in the ongoing season. Vikram has been a key figure for Mumbai City in the opponents’ box due to his energetic nature and a knack for finding spaces, which keeps the opposition defense on their toes.

Source: ISL

Coaches’ comments:

Peter Kratky expressed his regret about missing Vikram: “It’s always unfortunate when players have to miss games for whatever reasons, be it injury or suspension. Obviously, we will miss Vikram in this game. However, the strength of the team off the bench and the players behind provide a massive advantage for us.”

“This is my fourth year in the ISL and I remember being in a team that defeated Mumbai City in the past. I hope we break this streak tomorrow, but that record isn’t what we are focusing on. In the Durand Cup, Mohun Bagan won against Mumbai City this season and we lifted the trophy. It’s just one more match for us,” said Mohun Bagan assistant coachManuel Cascallana.