Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham is confident about the ISL Club Playoff as they face off against Jamshedpur FC for a place in the 2023-24 AFC Champions League group stage at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, Kerala, on 4 April.
After a historic campaign in the Indian Super League (ISL), the Islanders have now shifted their focus to the task at hand against the Red Miners with an eye on the premier competition of Asian football. Even though Mumbai City FC have secured a win and a draw against Jamshedpur FC in the ISL league stage this season, the Aidy Boothroyd-coached side made things hard for the Islanders on both occasions. Buckingham acknowledges the quality and the good run of form of the opponents.
“Jamshedpur FC are a good team. They showed that over the course of the year; they certainly showed it twice against us, and then they showed it in the last four or five games of the league phase,” Buckingham said during the pre-match press conference. “They’ve got good individuals and a good coach in Aidy Boothroyd). So we’ve got to be on top of our game and need to do everything to put ourselves in a position to do what we did (against them) in the league stage,” he added.
Mumbai City FC featured in the 2022 AFC Champions League as the second-ever Indian club and made their mark in the competition. They registered a historic win over Iraq’s Air Force Club to become the first Indian club to win a group stage game in the competition. The Islanders made a double over Air Force Club and held UAE’s Al Jazeera 0-0. The Buckingham-managed side finished second in their group with seven points, a tally no Indian club had ever achieved before.
The Englishman reiterates the importance of the AFC Champions League and feels his team is motivated to recreate history once again. “The AFC Champions League is the highest level of club football in Asian football.” We are only the second Indian club to go to the Champions League, and we’re the first team to go and win a game. We won two and managed to get a draw. We got three results out of six games. So, that shows what the players from here can do,” he said.
“It is a very exciting tournament to be a part of, and we have players who played it last year (also). They’re very keen to try and do everything we can to put ourselves back in that position for next season. We know it won’t be easy since Jamshedpur FC will be trying to do exactly the same thing,” Buckingham added.
Mumbai City FC have now regrouped themselves after they lost 9-8 to Bengaluru FC in a nail-biting penalty shootout in the ISL semi-final. Buckingham sheds light on the preparation and match fitness ahead of the encounter against Jamshedpur FC.