Second half of the season will be difficult: Mumbai City FC's Des Buckingham

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham expects the second half of the Hero Indian Super League 2022-23 to be more competitive as they welcome Chennaiyin FC at the Mumbai Football Arena in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) on Saturday.

Mumbai City FC are having a great 2022 under Buckingham, from finishing 2nd in the group stage in the AFC Champions League to making the Durand Cup final to going unbeaten in the Hero ISL at the half-way mark, it has been a memorable year.

Speaking about the current season, the head coach spoke how the little breaks in between helped them to be in the place where they are.

"We wanted to start the season as well as we could. We spoke a lot about trying to continue on from where we left off in the Champions League. We used the Durand Cup to try and be as successful as we could, we made the final, which allowed us to give us seven games to try and prepare ourselves and start the season well."

"To have a small break in almost mid-season for us and other players to spend time going back and seeing families and friends and almost refreshing and rejuvenating. I think it just gives them a little bit more of a lift and. So I think it comes at the right time and at a good time. The players are fit, fresh and ready to go and finish off the second half of the season stongly," he added.

East Bengal FC head coach Stephen Constantine had remarked that Mumbai City FC's quality is mainly because of their unlimited transfer budget and also reminded that half of the Indian players in the club are national team players. Buckingham responded to the statement saying that he would like to be factual whenever he speaks out but it's up to other coaches on what they want to speak.

"It's up to the coach and the club. When you look at the last Indian squad that was selected, there were two players from our club. We were one of the lowest in terms of players that were selected to go and represent the team. So it's important to me that when those comments are made, it doesn't really affect us because internally we know what we're doing, how we're doing it, but I'd like to think the general football public and the knowledge out there would be able to see through some of those comments as well."

The 37-year-old also spoke about the balance in his squad, how they want to be a club that develops and recruits the best young players and hinted at some debuts and more minutes for the young players in upcoming matches, provided they capitalise on the opportunities they receive.

"We've got a very mixed squad in terms of ages. We have a 24-year-old goalkeeper, a 24-year-old Indian center back, Vignesh (Dakshinamurthy) is 23. Apuia is 22, Chhangte is 24 and Vinit Rai is 24. so we still have a relatively young squad. So yes, players will get opportunities to play. But while the team are playing the way they are, at senior level, it's based on performances and that's important that those young players firstly are able to learn to after these senior players or these younger players within our squad, It's important when they come on that they take that opportunity to ensure that they can," Buckingham said.

Chennaiyin FC suffered a 2-6 defeat against Mumbai City FC at the Marina arena, but a lot has changed since then. Buckingham acknowledges that the opposition has improved since that meeting and expects a tough fight in the second half of the season.

"Teams do get better and we saw that last season in the Hero ISL, the games became more competitive and I expect that again this year. Yes, I think Chennaiyin FC have improved, but I think so does every other team, including ourselves and that's our challenge now, in making sure that we continue to get better to make sure we can continue progressing the way that we want"

Mumbai City FC will look maintain their unbeaten start to the season and would want to keep ahead of the chasing pack as we slowly move past the halfway mark and into the business end of the season.

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