Preview: Mumbai City FC begin AFC Champions League journey with tough Al-Shabab FC clash
Becoming just the second-ever Indian club to feature in the AFC Champions League group stage, Mumbai City FC are heading onto the prestigious competition with an aim to create more history. The Islanders, managed by head coach Des Buckingham, will play their first-ever AFC CL game against Saudi Arabian club Al-Shabab at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Friday.
Buckingham’s men were unable to retain the League Winners’ Shield as well as the Hero ISL title after failing to qualify for the semi-finals, finishing the season in the fifth position, with 31 points in 20 games. Leaving the Hero ISL season behind them, Buckingham is eyeing a victory in the Champions League, a feat no other Indian club has achieved yet.
Al-Shabab FC, on the other hand, are placed fourth in the ongoing Saudi Professional League 2021-22 season, earning 47 points from 25 games. The Saudi Arabian club have conceded 31 goals in the season, joint fifth fewest in the league. Getting knocked out 2-1 at extra-time in the semi-finals of King’s Cup at the hands of Al-Hilal, the six-time Saudi Arabian champions will long for a strong foothold in their opening group stage game against Mumbai City FC.
Featuring UAE's Al-Jazira and three-time AFC Cup winners Air Force Club of Iraq in the group, qualifying for the playoffs won't come easily for the Buckingham-led side, who will have to rekindle the side's 2020-21 title-winning form.
The two sides share the field together for the first time in their club’s history.
Mumbai City FC
Ahmed Jahouh: The Islanders’ midfielder has proven to be a key player for them time and again. One of the most influential players on the pitch, the midfielder had 10 goal contributions involving three goals and seven assists, and had the most touches among any Mumbai City FC player (1343) in the Hero ISL.
Bipin Singh: Running the show with six goals and nine assists in 20 games, the 27-year-old has upped his game higher in the last two Hero ISL season and has become a crucial attacking asset for the Islanders. Following his exploits down the flank in the Hero ISL, Singh will be a key player for the Islanders.
Ever Banega: The Argentine has been a firecracker for his side, leading the team on and off the pitch. The skipper has registered six goals and four assists in 23 games in the Saudi Pro League besides having two goal contributions in three games in the King’s Cup.
Carlos Junior: Al-Shabab’s new signing has made an instant impact on the team, netting 10 goals and providing three assists in 19 games in the league besides scoring four goals in the King’s Cup. The winger is the top scorer at the club after the departure of Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo.
Match Timings and Telecast Details
Match: Mumbai City FC vs Al-Shabab FC
Date: April 8, 2022
Venue: Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Kick-off time: 10:45 pm IST
Telecast: Star Sports 3
Online Streaming: Disney+Hotstar