Hyderabad FC match not more important than other games: Mumbai City FC's Des Buckingham
Des Buckingham believes Mumbai City FC don’t rely on one player or one position to contribute goals and is expecting another classic Hero Indian Super League (ISL) encounter when they host second-placed Hyderabad FC in a potential title-deciding fixture at the Mumbai Football Arena on Saturday.
The Islanders are coming into this game on the back of an enthralling 2-1 win over Jamshedpur FC in Matchweek 17.
“The last result was arguably the most important result of our season so far,” the Englishman said during the official pre-match press conference.
“It was a very tough place (JRD Tata Sports Complex) to visit. We went there with a very late change and had three midfield players on yellow cards that could have robbed them out for this game (against Hyderabad FC). They (Jamshedpur FC) were a very good team but to come away with the result was pleasing,” he added.
“It was more than the manner in which that game was won that is very important that shows another side to us. And something that's going to be very important for the final four games,” he continued.
In the reverse fixture, the two teams played out an entertaining 3-3 draw in the opening week of the Hero ISL 2022-23 season. Since then, both sides have done a brilliant job to be in the position where they are currently. Buckingham shared his thoughts ahead of the crucial clash against Hyderabad FC on Saturday in the Hero ISL.
“This game is no more important than the (previous) 16 that have gone before it and no less important than the three (games) that will go after it. We want to get better every game. We’ve shown different ways to get to the results. So, this game was prepared exactly the same way we have the previous 16 (games)," the head coach said.
Hyderabad FC currently boasts the best defensive record in the Hero ISL, conceding only nine goals in fifteen games that too without their first-choice goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani. Manolo Marquez’s side also went on a 5-game winning streak twice this season. But Buckingham feels his side is well-equipped to deal with the opponent.
“They’ve got the best defensive record in the league. But we've got the best goalscoring record in the league. So it's going to be an interesting game,” said the coach.
“We're not overly reliant upon one person or one position to contribute towards our goals and this is so important when you come up against a very good team who are organized as Hyderabad FC will be,” he added.
Despite missing key players in crucial games, Mumbai City FC haven’t fumbled at all. They have got good bench strength which is fundamental for the long-term success of any team. Buckingham has got the luxury to call upon the services of Rostyn Griffiths, Vikram Pratap and Alberto Noguera as substitutes.
“I think when you lose players from the starting XI, they are missed. But the pleasing thing is we're not reliant on one or two players this year. It's a group and we need to utilize our group to be successful this year,” he said.
Mumbai City FC are fairly known for doing good business in the transfer market. Des Buckingham shed light on his winter signings.
“(Gyamar) Nikum is a signing for the future. We see him as a winger or a wide player in the way that we want to play,” said Buckingham.
“We've been on the lookout for a right-back since we lost Amey (Ranawade) in the Durand Cup. We're convinced that Hardik (Bhatt) from what I've certainly seen in training and in the I-League will allow us to continue playing the way we want,” he added.
Aussie footballer Rostyn Griffiths, who slot in as a defensive midfielder against Jamshedpur FC, was also present in the press conference alongside Des Buckingham. Griffiths spoke about his capability of playing further up the pitch in midfield.
“I've done it in bits and parts mostly later on in the games when we've been trying to hold a lead or something. I understand the position (well). I played pretty much 90% of my career at defensive midfield. So it's not a huge shock to me when I go back there,” said Griffiths.
The 34-year-old looked confident ahead of their crucial game and is excited to match up against veteran striker Bartholomew Ogbeche.
“I've watched plenty of Hyderabad’s approach in the league, fairly aware of everyone's strengths and weaknesses. Bartholomew Ogbeche gonna be no more of a test than (Diego) Mauricio at Odisha or (Dimitri) Petratos at ATK Mohun Bagan. We (as a team) are ready to deal with it,” he added.
Speaking about his competition with Mourtada Fall for the centre-back spot, Griffiths believes that they both push each other’s game.
“I knew the style of Mumbai City FC wanted to play and that was a way that sort of suited me. I had the confidence that if I got my opportunity I would be able to keep that spot. Having somebody like him (Mourtada Fall), pushes me to keep performing at that as best you can,” concluded the defender.