Mumbai City are vying for their maiden ISL trophy when they face ATK Mohun Bagan in the final of ISL season 7
It’s a momentous occasion for Sergio Lobera when he leads Mumbai City into the club’s first ever Indian Super League (ISL) final on Saturday. It is his second ISL final a manager after earlier leading FC Goa to a runners-up finish in season 5 of the ISL.
Mumbai City finished top of the league phase and won the League Winners Shield after defeating ATK Mohun Bagan, who incidentally are their opponents on Saturday. In fact, they did the double over ATK Mohun Bagan this season with the superior head-to-head record helping them win the shield despite both teams finishing the league with 40 points.
How Lobera feels ahead of the final
“We know that they (ATK Mohun Bagan) are a very good team with very good players in a good momentum, but the most important thing is to put the focus on ourselves. We need to work 100 per cent in our style of play and our idea,” he said.
Having done the double over the Mariners wherein Bartholomew Ogbeche scored on both occasions, Lobera was asked if he would be tempted to persist with the Nigerian up front on Saturday.
“Ogbeche is a big player and he has a big role in our team [which is] not only in scoring goals. He’s a big example in our squad, when he doesn’t have an opportunity to play, how to manage the situation. Sometimes, accepting decisions of the coach is not easy because you always want to play. But he’s an amazing professional and a great person. I’m very happy and lucky to work with players like Ogbeche,” the 44-year-old replied.
Any advice from Pep Guardiola?
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola had words of praise for Lobera and co. after Mumbai City clinched the ISL League Shield. Now Lobera has a chance to deliver two ISL silverware for his club, a first if he manages to do that.
“This is a personal situation but you know that Pep Guardiola and the entire City Football Group family are always behind us. When you have people at City Football Group every day asking us if we need something to prepare, I think it’s very important for us. The message from Pep is for everyone to see but there are a lot of people who are behind us every day.
“When I had the first meeting with the City Football Group in Manchester, I knew that this is a big project. I accepted this challenge and I’m very happy about this situation (being in the final). Hopefully, after Saturday’s game, it’s possible to lift the trophy. But if it’s not possible, I’m very proud of my players and this project. I think we deserve this season because everyone has done a very good job.
The importance on the style of play
Mumbai City had to maneuver past FC Goa in a 120+ minutes affair in the second leg of the first semi-finals where they were locked in a titanic tussle. With Goa fashioning plenty of chances against Mumbai, the Spaniard explained that being competent is as important while remaining loyal to their style of play.
“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 reasoned.
‘Money not equivalent to winning trophies’
Lobera has time and again had to address the level of expectations bestowed upon his side to win the title, given the kind of star players they have brought in. However, the Mumbai City coach has stressed that it’s the kind of pressure that he enjoys.
“I think all the teams are working within the salary cap. If there are teams who don’t want to spend (more) money, it’s their decision. But money is not equivalent to winning trophies. I think we are doing a very good job,” he opined.
“We have players here who have accepted our offer with less money compared to what other teams were offering and I’m very proud of their decision because they want to play in our style of play,” he went on to claim. “Pressure (to deliver) is always there but I accept this pressure. I need this pressure as a coach. I don’t like to work at a place without pressure because then it means you don’t have enough level in your club to achieve your targets.”