Even as Mumbai City have a five-point lead at the top of the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) standings, improvement is all that head coach Sergio Lobera wants from his side.
After a narrow 1-0 win over East Bengal in their last outing, the Islanders have drawn level with Bengaluru FC's record unbeaten streak of 11 games in ISL that the Blues had attained under former coach Carles Cuadrat in the 2018-19 season.
Their upcoming match against Chennaiyin FC offers Lobera's side a chance of breaking that record outright.
"We are happy with our position on the table and our results but it's always possible to improve. For example, the last game (against East Bengal), especially in the second half. It's very important for us not to think about the past and we need to know that the most important game for us is the next game," said Lobera.
Records apart, he stressed that the aim is to win the league winners shield and qualify for the AFC Champions League (ACL), something he was unable to savour at FC Goa last season as he parted ways with the club with just three games left despite being top of the league.
"We are top of the table but especially in this league, in this situation, everything can change in seven days. Sometimes you have three games in 10 days and nine points is a lot of points. Till now the situation is good, but we want the best situation at the end of the season.
"I don't need to explain the situation (exit from FC Goa) of last season. Hopefully it's possible to achieve this (ACL qualification), this season," Lobera stated.
Chennaiyin are a side that has previously given the Spanish coach tactical headaches when the two sides met last time out. The former Goa coach has ruled out any suggestions of complacency from his team.
"The way we won the last game, everyone in the dressing room was not happy because they knew that our second half was not good. I got very ambitious people in the team and I think it's very important for me as a coach to work with people like that.
"You can watch the last game against Chennaiyin. The same situation happened. They are a very competitive team and it's not about individualities but collective work. In the last game, they had options to win the game. I think it will be a very competitive game," he advised caution.
The previous meeting with Chennaiyin was decided 2-1 in favour of the Mumbaikars courtesy of goals from setpieces. "Set-pieces are a very important part of the game to change the result and it's very important for us to work in set-pieces, not only against Chennaiyin but against every team," Lobera admitted, with Mumbai City scoring 11 of their 18 goals from set-pieces.
At the back as well, Mumbai have conceded the least number of goals (4) amongst all teams this season.
"When we score a lot of goals, it's about the entire team. We are working very well collectively and I think it's very important for us to keep this balance in attack and defense. I don't think our number in defense is because of only one or two players. In a lot of games, we recover the ball near the opponent's goal. Obviously, we have very good defenders but we are working very well as a team," the 44-year-old reasoned.
Mumbai have allowed Farukh Chaudhary to return to Jamshedpur and Lobera's former protege Jackichand Singh has made his way to Mumbai instead. The coach explained the idea behind the swap move.
"Farukh is a great player. I was very happy with Farukh here but the problem was he didn't have enough chances to play here. Maybe the situation was the (Farukh's) profile for our style of play. I can only speak good words about this player. I was very happy to work with him but we had to find the best solution for the player as he has a chance to play for the national team. I wish him the best.
"I know Jacki very well. He knows our style of play perfectly. So I think it's very easy for him to adapt to our style of play and help us in improving our level," Lobera elucidated.
Jackichand Singh echoed, "In every season I set a challenge for myself in terms of my performance in each game. Since joining the ISL, I have played the most at Goa under Lobera. So I hope to do well back at Mumbai where I have played before with [Hugo] Boumous, Mandar (Rao Dessai), [Mourtada] Fall and [Ahmed] Jahouh. I think it will be a good move for me."
The winger added, "Jamshedpur was also a good experience under a new coach (Owen Coyle). His philosophy was a bit different so I wasn't able to perform as well as I would have liked. I would like to thank the coach and Jamshedpur for giving me an opportunity at Jamshedpur."