It was only a better head-to-head record, including a win in the concluding league clash, that gave Sergio Lobera’s side the League Winners Shield and a place in next year’s high-profile AFC Champions League.
The result showed Mumbai had the necessary nerves for a winner-takes-all clash, and having already defeated ATK Mohun Bagan in both games this season, they should be confident of winning a rare double at the Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Saturday.
“I don’t think there is any (psychological) advantage,” said Lobera.
“Those wins were in the past and the final is a different game, compared to the regular league clashes. This will be a 50-50 game. Both teams have the ability to win. The better team will triumph.”
Final training session of 2020/21! ✅#HeroISLFinal #MCFCATKMB #TrophyLekeAa 🏆 #AamchiCity 🔵 https://t.co/IHtEJxbN9l
— Mumbai City FC (@MumbaiCityFC) 1615565108000
Playing a final for the first time, Mumbai have been the most attractive team. Lobera’s possession-based football has found more admirers and in the title clash, the Spanish coach promised to stay true to the style that won him two league titles with two different teams.
“The profile of players, our philosophy from the beginning has remained the same. We are strong playing this way and we need to be loyal to our style,” said Lobera who will miss Mandar Rao Desai for the final after the left-back – and his captain at FC Goa – picked up two bookings in the playoffs.
Habas is the polar opposite of Lobera who believes in results rather than style. Until the last week of the league stage, his pragmatism seemed to work as ATK Mohun Bagan enjoyed a five-point lead at the top, only to drop points against 10-man Hyderabad FC and then lose it all against Mumbai on the concluding day.
Our #HeroISL Season 7 journey has been an eventful and memorable one! Tomorrow, it all comes down to the FINAL as… https://t.co/s5jSUzdlOA
— ATK Mohun Bagan FC (@atkmohunbaganfc) 1615559543000
For all their mental toughness, and Habas’ ability to get it right for such games, that last-week choke now defines their season.
“My feeling going into this final is exactly like the last one. We have to compete and we have to win the final. My players are prepared to win this one,” said Habas, who won both his previous final games in ISL.
The Spanish coach has an impeccable record in knockouts, having already tasted success twice with ATK. He can count on the experience of his players too; six of Habas’ regular starting 11 would be from last year’s champion side that accounted for Chennaiyin FC 3-1 at the same venue
💚MATCHDAY!!❤️The biggest prize in #IndianFootball is at stake tonight at Fatorda! 🤩The #Mariners take on the… https://t.co/pm9qSqjy1Q
— ATK Mohun Bagan FC (@atkmohunbaganfc) 1615604640000
“We have to trust our coach, he is experienced in this league. As players, we follow his rules. It’s one more game and hopefully we can do the job,” said star striker Roy Krishna.
Alongside Goa’s Igor Angulo, Krishna is the joint highest scorer in the league with 14 goals. He needs another one to win the Golden Boot. Having failed to score twice against Mumbai this season, the Fiji striker, and his team, will have to work overtime.