This game is as important as every other game: MCFC head coach Des Buckingham

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham has been positive about his side’s start to the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season and feels his team needs to be on top of their game when they take on Kerala Blasters FC in matchweek 4 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Kochi, on Friday.

Buckingham believes his side have gained further clarity on their playing style since his induction as the head coach of the club and wants his side to keep going with their consistency throughout the 16 games afterwards and not just in the game against the Blasters.

The 37-year-old also spoke about Jorge Pereyra Diaz facing his former team, the threat possessed by the Tuskers, and a lot more as he attended the official pre-match press conference alongside forward Vikram Partap Singh.

Here are the excerpts from Buckingham’s press conference:

Mumbai City FC is unbeaten in the league with one win and two draws after three games. How do you rate your side’s performance so far?

I'll start with the season. We played last year’s champions in Hyderabad and we played last year's league winners in Jamshedpur. So in three games unbeaten, we've come away with a clean sheet. In the game against Odisha FC which we won 2-0, we put ourselves in a good position to start with. I'm happy because obviously we want more, we will do everything we can to try and continue pushing for more. But in terms of a start to the season, it's been what I'm happy with.

Kerala Blasters - who are winless in their last two games - did a league double over you last season. Do you think it’s a good time to play them on Friday?

We don’t focus on the runs of other teams. The most important thing is when you only have 20 games in any season, it's making sure that every game is important to each other. For me, it doesn’t matter. We know the qualities Kerala Blasters have and we're going to need to be on top of our game to stop that, but we also need to continue showing the plan, the football, that we have done not just in the last three games, but throughout the Durand Cup. I’ll go as far back as the AFC Champions League as well. So if we can do that, we'll be as prepared as we can. And we're expecting a very good game on Friday.

What kind of a match do you expect against Kerala Blasters FC?

A very good one, an exciting one, by the way they have been playing (this season). The way Ivan (Vukomanovic) has them playing, they showed last season how well they can perform if given the opportunity to do that. But so are we. We played some good football, we recruited very well. And we're obviously 12 months into my tenure here. Plus, I’m a lot clearer on how we want to play and what we want to do. So, hopefully the consistency of that we've already started to show. And that's going to be so important going in not just against Kerala, but for the 16 games afterwards.   

Mumbai City FC conceded goals in great numbers last season. This season you have already conceded four goals in three matches. Do you believe your defence should be stronger?

I think you can phrase it that way. We've conceded four in three (games). But three of those were in one game which was our first (game) against a very good Hyderabad FC team that can score from anywhere, very similar to us. So if I look over the last two, I say we've conceded one. We can change it that way. But we know if we want to be successful this year, we need to concede less goals than we did last (season).

We've also got the players that can continue to score more than we did last year. So if we can find that balance, which at the moment I'm starting to see some real signs that we can, we have to make sure that we can continue scoring goals and playing the style of football we want. But we've recruited players this year, we've now got a second foreign centre-back in Rostyn Griffiths that we brought in that we didn't have last year to play and support Mourtada Fall or play them both together if we want to.

And when I look back at last year's teams that were successful, every team that finished in the top four had the ability should they want to play two foreign centre-backs. So, we now have that ability and we’ve strengthened that, and we've also strengthened our forward line whilst also retaining the core base of our players.

Jorge Pereyra Diaz is a player who is missed by several Kerala Blasters FC fans. Now that he is with Mumbai City FC and has started one game, what are your views on him? How do you see him setting up in the team?

He's a wonderful player. I think you can see that for Kerala Blasters last year. He's fit in extremely well with the other five foreign players that we have. We started him in the first game against Hyderabad FC. We've managed to start him, we went with the team in the second game against the Odisha because of the impact that the players had when they came on and we won that game. So, we retained the same team for the third game.

So Diaz is fit and he's ready to play, the same as everyone else that is travelling for the game. But in terms of how he's fitted in with us, it's been very seamless, and that's been aided by the type of person he is: a very good person, as well as a good player. Hopefully, also the environment that he's coming to, and the players and the people that we have within our group as well.

Kerala Blasters FC haven’t had the best of starts this season. What are your views on them this season?

I think for every year this league continues to develop, and this being the ninth season, every year I've seen it get stronger. This year, especially, when you look at not just the length of the league, but the amount of games we're going to be able to play, is a wonderful thing in itself for the players. However, if you look at the recruitment of the players, you look at the clubs that have remained consistent to their coaches, I believe that will play a big part in this year as well. We look at the qualities now across each of the teams, it's gonna be very close.

And that's why each of the 20 games that we play are guaranteed to be very important. So I think Kerala Blasters is certainly one of the teams in this league that can beat any team on any given day. But I would say that now about us, I'd say that about a lot of teams in this league, and for fans watching, I think that's quite an exciting thing to come to a stadium and have a watch off, but not so much for the coaches. But we need to make sure we're at the top of our game every game regardless of Kerala or somebody else.

Are there any injury concerns for the game against Kerala Blasters? Is everyone fit?

Everybody is fit. Everybody wants to play. I think everyone's really looking forward to what should be a full house on Friday in front of a packed stadium, but we've certainly watched the games played there. Everyone really wants to be part of this game, and everyone's available and ready to go.

Here are the excerpts from Vikram Partap Singh’s press conference:

You have had a few minutes in the first three games. How’s it going for you? Do you feel like you’re knocking on the door? 

Yes, I think I learned a lot from last year. Now I am aware of what needs to be done this season. The work I’ve put in the previous season will definitely help me to get more playing time this season.

You might play in front of a massive crowd in Kochi on Friday. What are your expectations from the game?

I’m very excited and motivated because I’ve never played in front of such a huge crowd, but I’m ready to play there.  

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