For the first time in their history, Mumbai City FC will play in the AFC Asian Champions League. They will also be only the 2nd Indian club to compete at a continental level. The Islanders have been drawn in Group B, alongside UAE Pro League club Al Jazira, Iraqi giants Air Force and Al Shabab.
It was FC Goa last year who made their first appearance in the contest. They finished 3rf in a group of 4 teams that included Al Wahda and Persepolis Al Rayyan. Dheeraj Singh was named as the goalkeeper of the tournament.
Buckingham – “We want to evolve a new style of football”
Speaking about this milestone, gaffer Des Buckingham quoted – “There’s been excitement about the Champions League since I arrived. We came together in the morning to watch the draw and take in this historical moment for the club”. Buckingham was appointed as head coach job prior to the start of the new campaign.
Mumbai City FC currently stand in 4th in the league after 11 games. They trail 1st placed Kerala Blasters by 3 points. However, in their previous 5 games, they have recorded 2 draws and 3 losses. The Englishman faced a similar situation last term before his side went on a hot streak to clinch the ISL trophy.
He also spoke about a new style of football he wants to inculcate in his team. “We’ve gone a lot deeper into the roles of each player and what their responsibilities are – in and out of possession. It’s a new kind of style that we’re trying to evolve and build on from last year. That takes time.”
Buckingham explained that it was not as easy as ‘do this and the product will be that’. He wants his team to emulate last year’s magnificent showing and bounce back from this rocky period.
A Mountain to Climb
Nonetheless, focusing on bouncing back following a series of poor results is not their only concern. They must also look to improve match fitness and performances in preparation for the Cup. The boss is of the opinion that when that is achieved, there will be still be other items to cross off the list. Among them is the task of practicing at the yet-to-be-decided group stage venue.
Given that all the boxes are ticked off, Mumbai City still have a mammoth task ahead of them. Al Shabab is the first ever club to be founded in Riyadh. Iraq’s Air Force club is the country’s oldest football team in existence. In 2016, they beat Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup finals and went on to win the tournament twice in succession. Al Jazira have added firepower to their side by snapping up Joao Victor from Wolfsburg and Abdoulay Diaby from Sporting CP.
In comparison, Mumbai’s players and their coach possess almost no experience of playing at the highest continental level. Buckingham will be relying on his experience leading the New Zealand youth teams.
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