Mumbai City FC are placed sixth on the points table, a win away to break into the top four. However, their recent struggles to convert matches in their favour meant that they have gone winless in the last six encounters. The Islanders played out a 1-1 draw with 11th placed NorthEast United FC in their last game.
Meanwhile, opponents ATK Mohun Bagan are currently placed in the 5th position on the standings and they are high on confidence after defeating their arch-rivals SC East Bengal in a thrilling Kolkata derby as they came from one goal behind to score three goals, thanks to youngster Kiyan Nassiri’s brilliant performance.
Ahead of Mumbai City FC’s match against ATK Mohun Bagan on Thursday, 3rd February at the Fatorda Stadium, coach Des Buckingham addressed the media during the official pre-match press conference. Here are the excerpts from the same.
The club has announced two signings of Lallianzuala Chhangte and also Ravi Kumar after signing Vinit Rai and Diego Mauricio. Des was asked about the reason behind signing Chhangte.
“I’m really happy with the signings that we’ve made. Not just for those two players, but for all the four players that we’ve brought in during the transfer window. I think they’ll strengthen our squad both for the last eight games of the regular league season and also the AFC Champions League squad. I’m very thankful to the club for their support in bringing those players.
“Talking about Diego (Diego Mauricio), I feel he will add some quality in that final third and will help us continue scoring goals the way that we want. Chhangte (Lallianzuala Chhangte) just brings a different skill set in our front line, with Bipin (Bipin Singh) and Vikram (Viktam Pratap Singh) we have a lot of pace, and a lot of quality alongside Chhangte. I’ve admired him since I first came to ISL. He really suits the style or the way we want to play and he just gives us a different option, should we want to change something either within the game or from the start of a game.”
Mumbai City FC will face ATK Mohun Bagan who is coming to the match with the derby victory. Des was asked how he thinks the match will go ahead considering the team had a good result in the reverse fixture.
“Yes, I’m looking forward to the game. We’ve only played one game in nearly three weeks due to different reasons, and we’re just all looking forward to playing the game. They are obviously are a bit of a different team from the last time we played them at the start of the season. They have appointed a different head coach and the way they are working, we’re well aware of that.
“It’s about making sure that we’re as much prepared as we can be for the game. Whether it be through the new additions that have come in or the players that are really keen to make sure that in the last eight games of our season we play as strong as we can. It’s just something we’re looking forward to playing in the next game and also the remaining matches in the season.”
Des gave an update on the availability of the players and whether there are any Covid scares in the camp.
“Yes, we had a Covid scare leading into the game against NorthEast United. It really impacted our preparation for that game, and some players were unavailable as everyone saw. We didn’t really want to get into that at the time, we just wanted to focus on the game but looking at that game, I was really proud of the team and the way that they adapted and performed despite the challenges that we faced with three or four days leading in and the game day itself.
“So it’s just important we focus on tomorrow’s game. We’re still assessing a few things here. We’re still under heavy restrictions in our own bubble, but we’re doing as much we possibly can to prepare the players, as well as we can for the game tomorrow.”
In the previous press conference, Des had mentioned that Diego brought some differences in some areas in attack for Mumbai City FC. Des was questioned if the inclusion of Chhangte to the side were due to similar reasons.
“Yes, it is the one pleasing thing about playing the style of football that we want. We’re very clear about what we look for within that style. Both Diego (Diego Mauricio) and then certainly Chhangte (Lallianzuala Chhangte) when I looked at them before I came here last season. Looking at him (Chhangte) again leading into this January transfer window, he was a player that really suits and fits the profile that we need to play the style of football we want. He will come in and compliment the players we already have in those positions and just give us different ways of working.”
Des previously mentioned that Ahmed Jouhouh and also some other defenders were trying to go for the diagonal longball and the wingers were making runs. Buckingham was asked about the reason why the approach wasn’t visible against NorthEast United FC.
“No, I think it’s a bigger picture as I said we had, we were really impacted with our preparations for that game where we couldn’t even feel to recognise our centre forward. So we had to work with what we did. Of course, we hadn’t played in two weeks leading to that because we’ve had two games cancelled due to other teams having Covid so maybe a bit of match sharpness and fitness in that respect.
“But when I go back to the 12 games, we’re obviously measured on external factors, which are the results, because the results are posted on the table. But when we do the review of the last 12 games, we are still a team that are second on the table for overall possession. We’re second on the table for possession and passes across the league and we’re the team that enters the box the most times.”
Mumbai City FC have conceded many goals in the second half of the recent games despite putting up a good performance. So how does Des wants to rectify that?
“We need to be a bit more consistent in what we do and I say that in the last three or four games that especially where those goals have come from at the start of the year. We were pretty consistent with both how we played, but also in our starting eleven in the last three or four games we’ve missed key players like Mourtada [Mourtada Fall] as he was sent off and then was suspended. We also missed Jahouh [Ahmed Jahouh] and we missed Angulo [Igor Angulo] as well.
“They’re three big players for us and those changes to a team can disrupt. So it’s important those players that we have signed now, get the opportunity to show what they can perform to their best. That’s important from my point of view, and also for me and my staff that we work with the whole team to address those key areas and that’s something we’ve been really looking at as soon as possible.”
Coach Buckingham spoke if there are any injury concerns in the team.
“I’m still waiting on that right now. I won’t be able to answer that until the day of the game tomorrow so we’re hoping to have everybody, but we won’t know until tomorrow.”
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