Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham stated there is hunger within the team to qualify for Asia's premier football competition again ahead of their AFC Champions League 2023-24 group stage qualifier clash against Jamshedpur FC at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, Kerala on April 4.

After a record-breaking Hero Indian Super League (ISL) campaign, Mumbai City FC will shift their focus to a one-off qualifier which will present them a chance to secure a direct entry to the AFC Champions League 2023-24 group stage.

The Islanders clinched the League Winners' Shield in emphatic fashion after recording the longest unbeaten streak in the league history and finishing with a record-breaking points tally (46) while breaking plenty of other records. They will square off against Jamshedpur FC, the League Shield Winners from the Hero ISL 2021-22 season, with the winner guaranteeing themselves a spot in next season’s AFC Champions League.

Mumbai City FC won the League Winners' Shield with an impressive tally of 14 wins while just suffering two defeats during the season. They then went down to Bengaluru FC in a nail-biting penalty shootout after the scores were tied on aggregate over two legs. Buckingham mentioned that the morale of the squad was high after a memorable campaign.

“The morale is good, everyone is coming off the back of a successful league season. We’ve had a brief break to recalibrate and now the squad is fit and fresh. We have no selection issues or worries. We've got a group of players that are very hungry to finish the season as strong as we started”, said Buckingham.

Mumbai City FC, who featured in the 2022 AFC Champions League, made a name for themselves while previously competing in Asia’s premier football competition. Their victory over Air Force Club meant that they became the first Indian team to win a group stage game in the AFC Champions League. They ended their campaign with another win over Air Force Club, finishing second in their group with seven points, a tally no Indian club achieved before.

Buckingham reiterated that there was hunger within the squad to seal qualification for the AFC Champions League again, going by what they achieved in the 2022 edition.

“What we could achieve last year, it certainly creates hunger, knowing full well that this could be the last time for a few years that an Indian side does go to this level of competition. We were able to showcase what we could do on that stage and there is a hunger to make sure we do everything we can to put ourselves in a position to be able to do it again,” said Buckingham.

“We want to be a club that is successful, in any way you want to define success – whether that be results, whether that be performances, whether that be developing players, or whether that be trophies. The beauty of this competition is it's the highest level of club competition in Asia. For me as a coach and as players, you want to challenge yourself against the best at this level and this competition gives us the opportunity to do that,” he added.

Despite not being able to defend their League Shield title, Jamshedpur FC ended their Hero ISL 2022-23 season on a strong note. They won three of their last four games, which included wins against Hyderabad FC and Odisha FC, two sides that qualified for the playoffs. Buckingham was aware of Jamshedpur FC’s recent results and believes the one-off qualifier clash against the Red Miners is going to be exciting.

“I think it is going to be an exciting one. They're a team that finished the season strongly. We've played them twice in the season and we had to find different ways to get results in both of those games. But it will be an exciting one, because we know what we can do and we've shown that throughout the season. If we can stay true to our playing style and we approach the game in the same way we have done throughout the season, we'll put ourselves in the best position to firstly perform and then hopefully that's enough on the night to come away with the result we all want,” he concluded.