With the Indian Super League (ISL) returning for its seventh season on November 20 in Goa, it is time to take a closer look at the 11 teams who will fight it out for one of the most prestigious honours in Indian football.
Here’s our team preview of Mumbai City FC, the perennial underachievers of the league:
So near, yet so far
Mumbai City have been a mid-table team in every sense and were able to make it to the playoffs only twice. Consistently stuck at a position half way between the table-toppers and struggling teams at the very bottom, their campaigns have been littered with 'near misses'.
Last season, Mumbai blew hot and cold, finishing fifth in the league stage with 26 points from 18 matches. They won seven matches and lost six, falling short of the final playoff spot by three points.
The Islanders will be aiming for nothing short than the title when they kick off their campaign in the seventh edition of the league by taking on NorthEast United on November 21.
A thorough overhaul
Recently, the City Football Group, owner of English Premier League side Manchester City, acquired a 65 per cent stake in Mumbai City, marking the beginning of a major overhaul at the club.
They have spent big and brought in several top stars, both Indian and overseas, who have prior experience of playing in the ISL.
Up front, Mumbai City have signed Nigerian goal-poacher Bartholomew Ogbeche, one of the best strikers in the league. Over the last two seasons, he has scored 27 goals in 34 appearances for NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters. Mumbai have also roped in Englishman Adam le Fondre on a season-long loan from A-League side Sydney FC in a bid to bolster their attack.
Banking on Lobera's acumen
Sergio Lobera, who had coached La Liga side Las Palmas and Moghreb Tetouan in Morocco before spending three seasons at FC Goa, replaces Jorge Costa who parted ways with Mumbai City at the end of last season.
The 43-year-old Spaniard has brought with him the core group of players from his former side that include French-Moroccan attacking midfielder Hugo Boumous, Senegalise defender Mourtada Fall, Moroccan midfielder Ahmed Jahouh as well as local defenders Mandar Rao Desai and Amey Ranawade.
His support staff while at FC Goa - assistant Jesus Tato and fitness and conditioning coach Manuel Sayabera - has also joined him.
A prized acquisition
Mumbai secured the service of Hugo Boumous by shelling out Rs 1.6 crore in the most expensive transfer of the season. The 25-year-old, now into his fourth season in the ISL, produced 11 goals and 10 assists for the Gaurs last season. Deservingly, he won the league's best player award.
Apart from Boumous and Jahouh, the acquisition of English-born Japanese midfielder Cy Goddard and Spaniard Hernan Santana will definitely shore up their midfield.
They have also signed young India international Farukh Choudhary, who can play on either side in attack as well as down the middle.
The other Indians in Mumbai's midfield packed with foreigners are Bidyanandan Singh, Bibin Singh, Asif Khan, Pranjal Bhumij, Raynier Fernandes, Rowllin Borges, Sourav Das, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy, and Vikram Pratap Singh.
Fall to marshal the defence
Although Lobera is an exponent of attacking football, Mumbai have immense depth in their backline.
The 6-foot-7-inch tall Fall will be a towering presence in their defence. The 32-year-old, who has played for top division clubs in Moroccan and Kuwaiti leagues, possesses incredible set-piece abilities. He has represented Senegal's national team thrice.
The local talents signed to protect Mumbai's backline are Amey Ranawade, Hmingthan Mawia (better known as ‘Valpuia’), Mandar Rao Desai, Mehtab Singh, Mohamad Rakip, Tondonba Singh, and Sarthak Golui.
They have a top-class goalkeeper in Amrinder Singh. His deputies are Nishit Shetty, Phurba Lachenpa and Vikram Singh.