Mumbai City FC's head coach, Des Buckingham, is eagerly anticipating his team's upcoming home clash against Hyderabad FC in Matchweek 5 of the Indian Super League (ISL). The match will take place at the Mumbai Football Arena (MFA) on Saturday.

Currently, The Islanders remain undefeated in the league, while Hyderabad FC has yet to secure a single point this season. Last year, both teams had a remarkable season, finishing in the top two of the standings. However, this season, only Mumbai City FC has managed to maintain their top form. As the defending League Shield winners, they are currently unbeaten and sit fourth on the table with seven points in three games. Buckingham expressed his concern about Hyderabad FC's slow start but believes they deserve more.

“Hyderabad FC are a different team than what they were last year, similar to us. They've had changes and they're still finding their way, but they've played very well in the three games that they have played so far, three or four games they have played so far. So look, we're just looking forward to playing in front of our home fans, getting back to the MFA and continuing to try and pick up where we left off against Kerala,” stated Buckingham in the pre-match press conference.

Last season, Mumbai City FC drew three of their opening five fixtures but then went on an impressive 11-game winning streak. This run helped them secure the League Shield. This season, Mumbai City FC have had a strong start, winning two of their first three games, two of which were away matches. Buckingham is pleased with his team's performance and pointed out that they are already in a better position this season compared to the same point last year.

“I think it's three games into the season. And when I put that into context this time last season, we scored the same amount of goals. After three games. We've conceded the same amount of goals, but we're two points better off this season than we were last, you know? So we're already in a better position this year than we were last year. And if we can continue on the way we did last year, this year we'll be extremely pleased,” Buckingham explained.

Buckingham is thrilled to be back home, as he believes the fans' support has greatly boosted the team's morale. He hopes for the same level of support in the upcoming matches against Hyderabad FC and Punjab FC, as well as in all their home games.

“For the fans, we like to think we put on a good show last year. We like to see we only played one home game (against Kerala Blasters FC), but how supportive, how loud they were in the last game against Kerala. We want that again against Hyderabad FC and we want it again against Punjab FC, and we want it in every home game that we have,” he shared.

Dutch midfielder Nasser El Khayati, a former Chennaiyin FC player, also attended the press conference. He shared that he feels settled at his new club and praised Buckingham for making him feel welcome. 

“I came here, I felt very welcome, you know, by the boys, by the coaching staff. Especially, I had some conversations with the coach during my first days, and that helped a lot. You know, obviously when you come later in, it's always difficult to find your place and to settle in and to get going. But now I'm in my fifth week. I'm feeling better. So you're ready, ready to help the team and also obviously myself to perform again,” he shared.

Despite the perception that the match against Hyderabad FC may be easy due to their previous losses, El Khayati believes it will be a challenging game. He emphasised the team's confidence and the need to work hard to achieve a good result.

“Well, maybe a lot of people think, you know, they played three and they lost three. It's going to be an easy one, but I don't think it's going to be easy. Not at all. You know. But obviously we're playing at home. We have confidence in ourselves. You know if you look to our team, our players, especially the confidence that they had from last season. And so we just have to continue like that. And, but, it's not going to be easy if we don't fulfill our task and we have to work hard. And then I'm quite confident that we'll get a good result,” the midfielder said.

El Khayati revealed that playing at the MFA reminds him of the English football atmosphere, as he used to play in England. He was impressed with the support from the fans and considered them the "12th man" that can make a difference in the game's outcome. He hopes that the fans will continue to provide strong support in the team's upcoming home games.

“It was quite a little bit of a English atmosphere (my first game with Mumbai City FC) and I used to play in England. So I had some thoughts about the past, but it was quite, quite good. You know, I was quite impressed with what the coach just said about the fans,” El Khayati said.

He added, “I think that's somehow like the 12th man that you need to just win the game or not. I think they did really well and we hope they will do the same in the next home games.” 

MCFC will head into the match without Yoell van Nieff and Rostyn Griffiths, who are both out suspended.