Hopeful of the team being more consistent in the final three games: Mumbai City FC’s Des Buckingham

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham believes his team has gained ample experience in the AFC Champions League after playing the first three matches and wants them to face the upcoming game with a similar approach as they battle it out against Al Jazira Club in the group stage of the AFC CL at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday.

Match Preview: Mumbai City FC look to return to winning ways in Al Jazira rematch

Currently placed at the bottom of the 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.

Ahead of their clash against Al Jazira, the Islanders head coach along with winger Vikram Partap Singh addressed the media during the official pre-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts from the coach’s press conference:

How are the preparations coming along for the upcoming match against Al Jazira Club?

Buckingham: We’ve had a couple of days, some extra days’ worth of rest and recovery which was much needed for everybody, but the players are eager to go. They've now tasted this level of competition on three separate occasions, and we have that excitement of playing the same three teams and it’s one we’re really looking forward to facing against.

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?

Buckingham: 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 centre-back is 23, the central midfielder is 21, the winger is 23, young Vikram [Partap 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’s 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 showed 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 about where the team can improve in terms of the performance in the upcoming match?

Buckingham: Yes, the pleasing thing for me, as I said the other night, was to play against such fantastic teams, wonderful players that are well coached. Marcel [Keizer] has this team extremely well coached and they’ve been successful for many years. What’s really pleasing for me is how we’ve come here and been given credit for how we are playing.

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. If we continue to show what we’re capable of doing, then we’ll start picking up the results which we all want.

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 at 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, come the end of the tournament.

Being at the bottom of the table, is it very stressful for yourself and the team? How is the mentality for you and the team going forward in the group stage?

Vikram: 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.

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