Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham was pleased with the efforts shown by the team throughout the season and wants them to continue to build on it as they take on East Bengal FC in their final league game of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season at the Mumbai Football Arena, in Mumbai, on Sunday.

After an exceptional season marked by the triumph of being the fastest team to win the League Winners’ Shield, the Islanders have also created and broken a host of records this season. Buckingham wants the entire team to credit themselves for the work they’ve done throughout the season that has resulted in their historic achievements this season.

“When I look back over the last 10 months in particular, what we as a club have been able to achieve. From the AFC Champions League and finishing second in that group to putting together some extra performances and results in the Durand Cup final, and to then go on and be able to secure the league shield. And do that in the way that we did in terms of the football we played and the records that we broke, and obviously not losing a game on that journey up until that game against Bengaluru FC. So a wonderful achievement for everyone,” Buckingham stated in the official pre-match press conference.

However, Buckingham reiterated his stance of finishing the season on a high and wants his side to come away with a good performance in the game against East Bengal FC, which will help them enrich their celebrations of lifting the Shield following the game. 

“I'm really looking forward to this game, it's an opportunity for us to try and finish the season strong. It’s about making sure we prepare and get ready for what will be a very tough semi-final game and the playoffs, once we know who that may be. But we're looking forward to Sunday, because it's a wonderful opportunity for our club and our fans to celebrate what will be the presentation of the Shield itself. But we want that to be a good day also because of a solid performance and a good result,” he added. 

Des Buckingham’s men were extremely close to setting another historic record by becoming the only team to go the entire league unbeaten. Unfortunately, their run was halted by a rampant Bengaluru FC side, who crushed their dreams of going unbeaten after a 2-1 victory. The Englishman laid emphasis on their season as a whole and not singling out just one loss, as he clarified his side’s ambitions of the ongoing season.

“We will train fully only on Saturday, we were away for two games. We were so close to going that (be Invincibles) and that's what was being spoken around. It wasn’t being spoken around in our group. Our aims and targets at the start of the season were to try and play a certain style of football that would yield performances and results. I’m so pleased with what we’ve been able to do and when I look across 19 games, one result hasn’t gone our way and 18 have, so we’re very much focused on that because it has been a really successful season for us so far. We don’t let the outcome of one thing change everything that we've done over the last 10 months,” he said.

“It's interesting when you lose one game and people just want to focus on that rather than maybe the 18 (games) before. So, I think when you put the whole thing into context, that was our first league loss since 12 months, which 12 months ago if you had said that to us, and even now, I think that's a wonderful achievement. We said at the start that we want to be a club that is successful. Now, success looks like different things for different people. For us, it was about firstly implementing our playing style that could allow players to showcase what they can do in a real positive sense. When I look back at our season, the football that we've played, the goals we've scored, the amount of points that those performances have amassed, I'm very pleased with how we've done that.” he added.

Their opponents East Bengal FC are placed ninth in the league standings and have had a disappointing season after not qualifying for the playoffs. Despite the unwanted results, the Red and Gold brigade have a lethal threat in their star striker Cleiton Silva. The Brazilian is second in the charts for most goals scored, having found the back of the net 12 times across 18 games this season. 

Buckingham found the numbers and attributes of Silva praiseworthy, but was confident of his players keeping the East Bengal FC striker quiet in the game on Sunday.

“I think it's a wonderful achievement for Cleiton (Silva). Regardless of what they do and how they play, for a team in ninth position to have the current leading goalscorer, for me, that says so much about Cleiton, his attributes and his qualities. We don't often look too much at our opposition or opposition players. We do enough to be respectful and make sure we prepare our players and our team for what we think we may face and of course, Cleiton is one of those, but we'll make sure we set ourselves up to play the football we want. So, we'll try and do what we can on Sunday to nullify the threats that both Cleiton and hopefully the other players pose whilst also making sure that we can continue to showcase the football we have this season and give our fans something to celebrate,” he concluded.