Mumbai, Jan 7: Having few big names to boast of, a confident-sounding Mumbai FC are to take on Maharashtra state rivals DSK Shivajians from Pune in their opening I-League football encounter at the Cooperage ground here tomorrow, January 8.
Shivajians, under manager Dave Rogers, have recruited four overseas players besides beefing up their squad with top home country recruits like Sanju Pradhan, Nirmal Chettri, Subrata Paul and under 23 player Sumeet Passi, who was named as the captain, thus giving him added responsibility.
The Pune club, which finished a lowly ninth last season, has retained former Real Madrid Youth Academy product Juan Quero, and also brought in North Korean international Kim Song Yong under the Asian quota, Irish Midfielder Shane McFaul and towering Serbian center back Sasha Kolunija to complete their foreign player line-up.
Moreover, the new head coach of MFC, Santosh Kashyap, has had just a few days to put his team together, while the Pune outfit has had a lengthier period of training under Englishman Rogers which should stand them in good stead tomorrow.
MFC coach Kashyap was upbeat despite these handicaps. "Our goal is to finish in the top three. We will see how far we can reach.
"Khalid Jamil has done a great job with the team till last year when their main focus was to avoid relegation but the team management wanted to go a step further and I have been given charge," he said at the pre-match media conference.
MFC, currently without any foreign recruits which is likely to change next week, had finished sixth in 2014-15 season and then improved upon that showing by ending up sixth last season.
"DSK Shivajians are strong opponents with very good infrastructure. We will play attacking football and you can expect an entertaining match," said Kashyap whose side is also handicapped by the unavailability through a hamstring injury to senior defender Alan Dias.
"We have very good players and it's a balanced team. I love to play attacking football and so does the coach," said veteran midfielder and captain Steven Dias, an ex-India international.
Shivajians' manager Rogers, who has had two and a half years staying and watching football in India, said he believes in 'attacking football.'
"I am not one who believes in being cagey. I believe in attacking football. I want the players to play without fear. We have a good blend of youth and experience," said Rogers, who was earlier Head of the DSK Shivajians Youth Academy, which boasts of a partnership with Liverpool FC.
"I am not afraid to play young players. I want players who don't give up," said the Liverpool-born Rogers who has taken over the mantle from last season's coach Derrick Pereira Last season DSK and MFC won at home.
DSK won 1-0 in Pune but then lost the away leg 0-4 here. The visiting team, semi finalists in the Durand Cup, seem to hold the edge, at least on paper, this time around.