Past ISL record
Seventh (2014), Sixth (2015)
The big picture
Mumbai City FC (MCFC) made one of the biggest signings in the first season of the ISL in 2014, with Frenchman Nicolas Anelka, who had played for West Bromwich Albion earlier that year in England. To add to that, they also signed Sweden's Freddie Ljungberg who had immense success at Arsenal, but had been retired for two years. They were also a part of history by playing the first match of the ISL, a 1-0 defeat away to Atletico de Kolkata (ATK), but they had a dismal first season after finishing seventh with only four wins in 14 games. The only silver lining was Brazilian striker Andre Moritz, who scored the only hat-trick of the first ISL in a 5-0 win over rivals, FC Pune City (FCPC).
Last year, Anelka took over as the manager of the team from Englishman Peter Reid. The team was also bolstered by the addition of India's most prolific goal scorer Sunil Chhetri and Sony Norde, the Haitian who led Mohun Bagan to victory in the I-league earlier that year. However, the team struggled again -- Moritz chose to walk away from the team after just one game -- and Anelka announced that he won't be returning in 2016. Chhetri was one of their better players, topping the scoring charts with seven goals. Their lowest point came in a 7-0 defeat against FC Goa, the biggest defeat in ISL history till date.
For the first time this year, Mumbai City FC will be hosting their home games at the Mumbai Football Arena in Andheri and not the DY Patil Stadium, which is located far from the city centre and hence used to be difficult to get to. If the recent friendly against Costa Rica is anything to go by, the atmosphere this season could be a welcome change.
Costa Rica's Alexandre Giumaraes has replaced Anelka as the manager for this year. Guimaraes represented Costa Rica at the 1990 World Cup and also coached the Costa Rica team at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups in Korea/Japan and Germany, respectively. They failed to progress to the second round in any of the tournaments. He has also coached the Panama national team with no significant success. It's hard to predict what to expect from the Costa Rican before the start of the season.
Diego Forlan, who was awarded the Golden Ball at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, will be the team's marquee player this year. He guided Uruguay to a fourth place finish in the World Cup and this would be his maiden appearance in the ISL. The 37 year-old has represented Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid in the past. He last represented his boyhood club Penarol in the Uruguayan league and helped them win the title earlier this year scoring 8 goals in 31 appearances.
The second-most capped player for Uruguay has a good eye for goal with a great shooting range and together with his immense experience, Forlan is an exciting prospect for MCFC this season.
The other key players
MCFC have failed to qualify for the playoffs in the past and a lot of it can be attributed to a sloppy defence. Mumbai would be relying heavily on Forlan and Sony Norde to provide the impetus going forward.
Due to Bengaluru's FC run into the AFC Cup semi-finals, MCFC will miss out on the services of Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, goalkeeper Amrinder Singh and Lalchhuanmawai Fanai till at least October 18. Their availability after that would be dependent on BFC's progress in the AFC Cup.
Aizawl FC captain David Lalrinmuana and winger Jackichand Singh, now an India international after two great domestic seasons in Indian football, will become important players as they try and push for a place in the play-offs for the first time.
Opening match: vs FC Pune City, Monday, October 3, Pune.