Des Buckingham – I am delighted with the progression shown by young Indian players

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Mumbai City FC are placed fifth in league with 31 points from 19 matches. They lost 3-1 against Kerala Blasters FC in their last game. The Blasters’ are now leading Mumbai City by two points in the race for the top four. The Islanders, who have a slim chance of qualifying for the semi-finals, can only achieve that spot if they win their game against Hyderabad FC and hope that Kerala Blasters loses to FC Goa in their final match. Only then do the reigning champions have a chance at defending their title.

Hyderabad FC, on the other hand, is placed second in the points table with 35 points from 19 matches. Hyderabad FC lost 3-0 to Jamshedpur FC in their last game. As a result, Jamshedpur FC extended their lead to two points at the top of the table, having played a game less than HFC. Both Hyderabad FC and Mumbai City FC require a win if they are to achieve their respective objectives. The match has a lot at stake, hence the two teams will push for all three points.

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham addressed the media during the pre-match press conference ahead of their game against Hyderabad FC on Saturday at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa.

Des Buckingham - I am delighted with the progression shown by young Indian players

Below are the excerpts of gaffer Des Buckingham from the media interaction.

Des spoke about the takeaways he would want to address from the last match’s defeat.

“Yes, I think we are obviously disappointed to not come away with the result that we wanted from that game, but we don’t have if we don’t have too long to put that right. There are two days between that one and the next, so we’re trained today, and we’re all very much looking forward to this game against Hyderabad FC. Although it’s not on our hands anymore, we will go out, and we will do everything we possibly can to put ourselves in the position that we want to be in at the end of this game, and then we’ll see what happens in the day.”

Des shared his assessment of the young Indian players from ISL and their improvement this season.

“Talking about the young players here at the club, when you actually go through our team and the players we have taken to the field this year, we’re a very young team. I’ve been impressed with Nawaz in goal, who is 21. Vignesh has played a significant part in the left-back season and is 23 years old. Mehtab’s broken through a centre-back who has played a good portion of games now, and he is 23 years old. Amey is also 23 years old, playing at right-back. Apuia has played most of the games in the holding midfield role, and he’s 21 years old. We’ve had game time with Vikram, who is 19 years old and a young Gurkirat on the left who has come on at 18 years old.

“So we’ve got a lot of young players, and there’s a lot of players yet that haven’t got to or taken to the field, but they have the capability to do that. So we may see that in this next game, but I’ll be very happy with them on the progression they’ve shown. I’ve spoken all year about having their own development plans, and we’ve certainly been working with them on that. I think that’s put us in a good spot because when they’ve come in to compete at this level which is the highest level they can in India, they’ve shown good ability, and they contribute well to the games.”

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In the next match, Mumbai will have nothing to lose. Des spoke on if he would make any changes in approach or the player’s selection.

“Yes, we’ve got two players who have started the last couple of games in Chhangte and Rahul Bheke, who will be out through suspension. So straight away, that opens up opportunities for other players to either come back in or even, you know, maybe start if they haven’t done already and also allows us to look at other ways that we may want to work. But again, we’ll go through that in training today, but you know there’s definitely two changes to our squad simply through suspension.”

Angulo has failed to click, and Mauricio has scored in the last two matches. Des spoke on if he plans to start both of them together. He also asked if Jahouh is part of the selection plans this time around.

“Yeah, so Diego (Mauricio) is not much fit to play 90 minutes. There would be nothing more than it, and I would really enjoy it would be to pair Diego with Angulo. We’ve got two-goal threats there, and we’ve been trying to build Diego’s game time up over the past couple of weeks. He’s had a couple of niggles within training that have limited the amount of time we can play in without putting him at real risk, but when he has taken to the field like he scored a one-open play goal and two penalties. So if there’s the opportunity to play both of them together and it’s the right thing for the team, then that’s certainly an option we can do.

“Possibly, we’ll see how Jahouh comes through today’s training. I have spoken to him, and he trained with the group but didn’t do too much ball work today. So we’ll just see how that reacts if he comes up through today’s session. But again, he’s in contention to be part of the squad for tomorrow.”

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In the absence of Ahmed Jahouh, the midfield has looked a lot weaker. Des spoke on if he would like to make reinforcements in that pivotal area going forward, or he would want to nurture the Indian players in that destructive role.

“Particularly in that role, Jahouh (Ahmed), but earlier this year, we obviously lost Rowllin Borges as well for the season. So when you lose two players, not just Jahouh, but you also lose Rowllin, we brought up Apuia as a very young and promising player, and he’s indeed shown some really good signs this year. We tried to bolster that role with Vinit (Rai), who is again another young 24-year-old good player, and we’ll continue to develop him.

“When you lose Rowllin, and then you lose Jahouh, two central figures that were here last year and played pretty much every game in that midfield, it does affect how we play because the team had become used to playing with them and through them. So, we have to adjust, and it cannot be an excuse; we have to find different ways to play well, we have to find ways to win games and play the style of football we want.”

Des gave his assessment of the opponent team Hyderabad FC.

“We played Hyderabad in the second game of the season, and in the first half of the season, they were undoubtedly one of the best teams that we played. They were very well organised, they’re very clear on what they’re doing with and without the ball, and again they’ve got a coach that’s been with them for a period of time which I think has helped them. So, I know it’s unfortunate what happened with them in the last game, with them having cases and unavailability of players, so we’re not sure where we are or where that sits right now, but as you know, they’re a good team.

“They’ve shown that, and that’s why they are where they are in the league. It’s important again that we must go at them the way we want to go out, and we have one game left of the regular season. It’s a real opportunity for us to go and put ourselves in the position that we want against a very good Hyderabad FC team.”

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Des spoke about how he is planning to prepare the team for the AFC Champions League after the season ends.

“Yes, we’ve got three different scenarios to play out, and they’re all planned and ready to go. The best case is making the finals, and the second is making the grand final, the second is the semi-finals, and of course, the other one is if our season comes to an end in the next round, so that’s in the background and ready to go. The most important thing is it’s not looking at the champions league right now. We’ve got ourselves to a position where we win our next game; we put ourselves to the contentions for finals, and that’s the only thing that we need to be looking at right now.”

Des spoke on if Mumbai City FC needs a bit of reinforcement in the squad before the AFC Champions League begins.

“I think if you’ve got the opportunity to strengthen your team, you do that, and looking at what we have available to us now, you will obviously have Ahmed Jahouh who will come back in and be fit, which will be a real boost to our midfield in particular. Then we’ll take Rowllin Borges with us to the AFC Champions League anyway because he plays a hugely pivotal role in our leadership team and making sure we have that off the field if we can’t have that on it. Still, if there is the possibility of doing that, that’s something that the club will look at.

“If there isn’t an option, then we’ve got good players here, and it’s about making sure that we set ourselves up similar to the way that we did last year. We know that other teams will have a lot more resources and many other things that we possibly won’t have. So, if there’s an opportunity to strengthen, that’s something for the club to look at, if not then with the players that we have, we’ll go, and we’ll do what we’ll do the best that we can, to try and represent both our club first, and secondly, Indian football on the Asian stage.”

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