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Freddie, steady, go!

After missing out on Mumbai City FC's ISL opener due to injury, marquee player Ljungberg trained hard yesterday, indicating he's ready to face FC Pune City tonight

Mumbai City FC’s campaign in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) got off to the worst possible start, thanks to a 0-3 thrashing at the hands of Atletico de Kolkata at the Salt Lake Stadium earlier this week.

Freddie Ljungberg
Mumbai City FC's marquee player Freddie Ljungberg during a practice session at Nerul’s DY Patil Stadium yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK.

Today at Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium, the Mumbai franchise will have chance to earn their first points in the league when they take on FC Pune City, who also had a lucklustre showing in their goalless draw against Delhi Dynamos. However, the Mumbai franchise’s marquee player, Freddie Ljungberg, has warned his teammates that they shouldn’t expect things to get any easier.

Indians not used to attention
“In the opening game against Kolkata, there were nearly 70-80,000 people in the stands. There were so many TV cameras. Many of our Indian players were probably nervous as they had never seen this before,” the Swede told mid-day. “Yes, I agree we didn’t play great football, but the scoreline didn’t reflect how close a game it was. But tomorrow’s game will be a tough one as they have a good team. It is important to show everybody respect,” he added.

The Mumbai franchise have been handed a boost as Ljungberg, who missed the opener due to a calf strain, practised for half-an-hour yesterday at the DY Patil Stadium without any complains, leading to speculation that he might play a role in the match tonight.

While Mumbai coach Peter Reid refused to confirm that Ljungberg will be playing a role today, he said that that he will make one or two changes, mainly due to the ankle injury captain Syed Rahim Nabi suffered in the opener. Striker Nicolas Anelka is out due to a suspension.

Reid believes that playing on the natural grass surface at the DY Patil Stadium will enhance their chances of winning. The Salt Lake Stadium, on which Mumbai was demolished 0-3, is an artificial turf venue.

Conditions matter
“No disrespect to Kolkata but football is a sport better played on grass. Players will appreciate the conditions here more as grass is more conducive to a passing game,” Reid said.

Meanwhile, Pune City FC’s marquee man David Trezeguet said that Mumbai were contenders for the ISL title. “I saw them play live in Kolkata. They’re definitely one of the contenders for the ISL. They will definitely want to improve on their performance. If they play (Freddie) Ljungberg and (Nicolas) Anelka, they’ll definitely be contenders for the ISL title,” the striker said.

He added that he was disappointed by the way his side played against Delhi. “In the first game, we didn’t play as we wanted. There were a lot of emotions. We weren’t able to do what we do on a daily basis. Our defence was pretty good. However, we weren’t up to the mark in the midfield. Our offensive play was lacking,” the Frenchman said.

ISL on TV: Mumbai vs Pune on Star Sports 2, 3, HD 2 and Star Gold, 19:00

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