MUMBAI CITY FC topped the points table in the last edition of ISL but missed out on the title due to the league currently having play-offs where Mumbai lost to ATK.
This time around, they have retained the services of their coach Alexandre Guimaraes and he is confident of the team to do well and is hopes to get their hands on the trophy. TFG sat down with the Brazilian born Costa Rican gaffer on Tuesday afternoon at the Renaissance Hotel in Powai, Mumbai.
He spoke about the team missing out on the title and what are they looking forward to in this season. When asked about having play-offs in a league, he said,
"I think it's a good way to promote the league itself. I mean without play-offs, the fans may not be that interested in the league. So with the play-offs, and I'm telling you this in my experience, there are countries that have a league with and without playoffs."
"At first the fans get more excited with playoffs, and also because the level of ISL teams, especially last season when I was here, it was very even. I think it creates a good atmosphere for the fans."
But talking about if this should be continued in the future ahead, he said,
"Well, it depends what is the plan for ISL in the future right. I think if ISL tries to get more teams, I don't know how many but if they can manage to get more teams, then I think it will better the other way (without playoffs) but with 8 or now that it is 10 teams that we have, it's okay to have playoffs."
Everything worked well for the team last season until they played the playoffs, so answering what will work for the team this season, the coach said,
"We have more variety in our squad defencely and offensively. Also because of the way of playing the tournament, time and etc. our picks for local guys which we got lucky I think to pick them and also in the selection of foreigners is based upon that, to have more variety, to give our game more depth and what I saw during the pre-season we are in the right track."
When one takes a look at the squad of Mumbai City, the defence looks strong and promising on paper. Coach Guimares talks about his expectations from them,
"As usual, I mean, this is the line of players that come with immense experience. We have the young lads on the flanks but those in the centre are much experienced that has to give out a solid performance just like we did in last season. Keeping Goain, Gerson and Amrinder (keeper) of course this is very good for us."
When asked about his thoughts on the draft system where he almost lost all the Indian players who played for MCFC last year, he said,
"We have lost the core team and it is a difficult task to build a new team every year but I think with the five weeks more or less that we've had in the pre-season, this year and the last time has helped us prepare well for the season. But then again, at times what you see in the pre-season, things will be different when the actual action begins."
There is now Zico in this edition of ISL and therefore a less of Brazilian flavour in the league. It's more of a Spanish touch this time around but Mumbai City surprisingly have quite a few Brazilian players and so are their members in the coaching staff. Coach explains the thought process behind the same,
"Last season the Brailian players we had, we learnt that they mix very well with the others in the squad (foreigners and local players alike). I have worked with players from different nationalities and having the Brazilians in the squad makes it easy for them to understand me too. Though I was raised in Costa Rica, I was born in Brazil. So it all helps in the process of communication, the similar feeling towards football. And for some of them, they try to indulge in lot of talks with the Indian players and that is a good thing."
Talking about the pre-season and if he already has his playing 11 in mind, he said,
"Yes, in mind but you know things can change depending on the situation too. We still have few days to go till we play our first match, and it's a tough one, away at Bengaluru. And they are a team that are more established than all the other ones because they have been training and playing and competing before all of us. But yes, I do have the playing 11 ready but then again I will have to wait a little bit and see how the last few practice sessions go by and then decide, but I know what I want from them."
Sharing his thoughts on the Balwant Singh and his rise, coach said,
"When the draft ended, the first thing that other coaches came and told me that, 'You took the one we wanted!' First of all when you get such kind of immediate feedbacks, the first feeling that comes to you is, you chose well. Secondly, my information about him when he was on pitch, during practice, outside the pitch was fantastic. I mean, he's a guy that likes to compete very much, he is someone who likes to participate in the group and he also knows that his time is now and he will do everything in order to not let go of the opportunity. In the pre-season, he very well did what we expected out of him, we put him in different roles and positions and he did good. So now like I said, he's ready and I'm totally sure that he will help us in all the ways possible."
Guimares is here as the coach of Mumbai City for the second time, talking about his experience so far and what made him come back, he said,
"I will say that my experience was a 100% positive, I mean I have been very close to coming in, in ISL 3 but in the last moment, the negotiations didn't work well, so when the invitation from Mumbai City FC came in last season. I wanted to come and see what's going on here about football and my experience and feeling was like I said a 100% positive. The organisation treated me and my family very well. The relation with them was very fantastic, very open. My relation with the fans was incredible and also had a good relation with the media. The short term that I was here last season, we liked the city and other places we went and why not come back. And I also had a bad taste in my mouth of not making it to the finals last season and so here's another opportunity for me and the team to try and get close to it this time."
When asked about who the team can look upto on the field this season in the absence of big names like Sunil Chhetri and Diego Forlan, he said,
"Well don't forget the likes of Defederico and others who did a fantastic job for the team. But this season they chose to stay where they are and that is something which isn't in our control. We have to change our approach this time, be much more compact and a collective team. And what we've done in the pre-season we are optimistic for the season but then again like I mentioned earlier, what happens in pre-season need to work well in the actual league."
"Well I don't want to pick one player and him to play a big role, instead I would like if the team as a whole gave their best on the field, doing well for the team should be the main thing for the players."
Talking about if all players are fit and ready to play, he said,
"We still have few days left, like I said before, we still have to wait. Still need the final word coming from the doctor who will allow me to put the players on the field on Sunday. After this pre-season, all the players are rearing to play."
And finally to conclude, when asked what the fans of Mumbai City can expect, he first echoed the words of Ranbir Kapoor and said,
"We have to play with a big and strong heart, so the result of course is something that we want to do well and qualify for the playoffs like last season and then after that trying to get more. This is a different season in terms of, we have two more teams, in terms of, you have different kind of organisation. Our fans have to continue to be loyal as they have in the past and to be there in huge numbers to support the team when we play at home in Andheri because that helps the team in a great way."
Get the latest in the world of Sports, Teams, and Players! Free Delivery to your Inbox.