Mumbai City FC who suffered a narrow 1-0 loss to Al Jazira Club in their last group match in the AFC Champions League group stage will get a quick chance at redemption when they take on the same opponents at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Monday.
Currently placed at the bottom of Group B, Buckingham is enthralled with the performances put up by his substantially younger squad and wants them to go into the upcoming games with an enhanced consistency to book a berth at a higher position in the table and further advance onto the next stage. A win against Al-Jazira would lift Mumbai City FC into serious contention for a place in the next round, a feat that no other Indian club has ever achieved before.
Here are the excerpts of the coach from the press conference.
In the last match, we saw two distinct characters of the team, one in the first half and the other in the second half. So, which character will we see on Monday?
“Yes, it’s an interesting one for us because we’ve got a way we’d like to play, that’s with or without the ball, and it was in full show in the second half, not so much in the first. But when you look at our team, this is the one thing that really excites me, it’s an incredibly young team, our goalkeeper is 21-years-old, the right-back is 23, the left-back is 23, the center-back is 23, the central midfielder is 21, the winger is 23, young Vikram (Pratap Singh) is 19. So, it’s a very young team and for them to come here and put up their performances bodes extremely well for us and with the experiences that they get, but I’m also hopeful that they can now take the field a bit more consistently into the final three games. We’ll go out and play our own game as we’ve done throughout the ISL season.
“I said to my team yesterday that of the three games we’ve played, there are only 45 minutes that we haven’t really played our way and that was the first half of the last game. In the first two games, I was very happy with how we approached the game with and without the ball, and then again in the second half of the last game, I felt we could’ve shown up to the game with the chances we created. We should’ve taken a result from the game with those performances. So, overall, with the experiences that we’ve gained with a young side, we’ve already picked up a win in this competition. It’s something I’m really excited about seeing what we can now do.”
It was a good performance against Al Jazira Club in the last match. Can you tell us where the team can improve in terms of performance in the upcoming match?
“We’re coming up against a fantastic team in Al Jazira. They have some top-quality players and the team is managed by an experienced coach who have been successful for many years. But we must give credit to our players, who are playing at this level of competition for the first time. The players have now tasted this level of competition on three occasions and we have the prospect of playing against the same three teams and it’s one that we’re really looking forward to.”
“I’m very pleased, as I’ve said to the group, with how we’ve approached and played the game in all three games, especially the second half in our last game. So, it’s important that we start the next game as we started the second half in the last game. I’m confident that if we continue to show what we’re capable of doing, then we’ll start picking up the results which we all want.”
How are the preparations coming along for the upcoming match against Al Jazira Club?
“We’ve had a good couple of days of rest and recovery which was good for everybody but the players are raring to go, having tasted this level of competition on three separate occasions with three separate teams. We’re looking forward to facing Al Jazira again.”
What are your aims and objectives for the remaining three matches and what is your strategy to achieve them?
“Yes, we came into the tournament with the target of becoming the first Indian team to win a game in this competition and we achieved that in the second game after playing some quality football. Now the players have got those experiences and know what to expect at this level. I’m excited firstly about continuing the performances that we’ve shown. I trust these players implicitly, the way that they’ve gone about highlighting how good Indian players can be, old and young on this stage and how they can compete with some superior teams.
“It’s been fascinating and fantastic to see from the sidelines. Now, our focus will be to continue those performances and see if we can pick up some more points and results, to try and finish the table as high as we can. And if we can do that, backed by some performances and playing the way we want, I’ll be extremely happy, to come to the end of the tournament.”
Being at the bottom of the table, is very stressful for yourself and the team? How is the mentality for you and the team going forward in the group stage?
“The mentality is positive because we’ve already played each of the teams once, so we know what we have to do to improve our performances against those teams. The team is confident for the remaining three games. Having played against all the teams now, we know what we have to do to improve our performances against them. We’ve had a good rest after the last game and we’re ready.”
Match Timings and Telecast Details
Match: Mumbai City FC vs Al Jazira
Date: April 18, 2022
Venue: King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Kick-off time: 10:45 pm IST
Telecast: Star Sports 3
Online Streaming: Disney+Hotstar/ Jio TV
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