Mumbai City FC Head coach Des Buckingham is confident about his side's chances of retaining the Indian Super League (ISL) Shield besides winning the ISL Cup in the upcoming season. The Islanders start their ISL 2023-24 campaign against Northeast United FC, at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, in Guwahati, on Sunday.

"I think it's more important that we focus on seeing what we did last year and we will now look to build upon a wonderful season we had in the ISL last year. 18 games unbeaten in the ISL that won us the Shield, most goals scored, most goals scored by Indian players. It was the style of football that we played. It's my third season here now. It's about building upon that success and we are very excited to get our season underway again and see what we can do this year. We want to build rather than start again and we have got a wonderful foundation to do that," Buckingham said in the pre-match press conference. 

While Mumbai City FC have retained the majority of their players who were part of their playing eleven from the previous season, NorthEast United FC have revamped their squad. The Highlanders have brought in plenty of new faces besides appointing Spaniard Juan Pedro Benali as their new head coach.  

Buckingham feels that Northeast United FC's new-look team has a good mix of young and experienced players. He also appreciated the performance of the team in the recently-concluded Durand Cup, where the Highlanders finished as semi-finalists. 

"I think the first thing is to recognise it's a very different NorthEast (United FC) team than that was in the ISL last year. Obviously they didn't finish where they would have wanted as a club, but they have made changes with their coach and a substantial change to their playing group and they got to the semi-final of the Durand Cup playing some very good football. So that perception of where Northeast was last season and where they are now are very different."

Mumbai City FC lost some key players in the transfer window, including the likes of Mourtada Fall, Ahmed Jahouh and few others, who played a massive part in their League Shield triumph. However, Buckingham seemed content with the incomings within his squad. He was also pleased with how new recruits like Akash Mishra have settled in the team.

"We want Akash to show what he did for Hyderabad FC, put that into our playing style and if he can do that and we can get him comfortable enough to do that he will really excel. The work he did with Manolo (Marquez) and what he was able to showcase for over 3 seasons there showed for itself, he got himself into the national team and is now the starting left back so I'm very excited in adding Akash and the quality that he will bring  to our side," he explained.

"There is always change within teams, Mourtada Fall moved on, same as (Ahmed) Jahouh, same as Rowlin Borges , same as Mandar (Rao Dessai), Vignesh (Dakshinamurthy) and others, you know that happens. We have had eight or nine weeks working with the new recruits that we have brought in and  I am happy with how they settled."

Mumbai City FC midfielder Lalengmawia Ralte accompanied Des Buckingham in the pre match press conference. Apuia has been with the club since the last three seasons.

He feels that Buckingham has had a positive impact influencing his playing style. He believes that it enables him to help the team much more than earlier.

"Before I worked with Des, I usually played as a 6 and when he came regarding the players we have he shifted me to number 10 and playing as a 10 demands a lot in playing the ball forward. That helps me a lot. Playing as a 10 and trying to have assists, scoring some goals to help the team, I think that has improved in me after working with him."

Apuia wants to become one of the influential members of the team moving forward and help the team win some silverware this season.

"Now I am not a young Apuia anymore, so I would like to be one of the leaders, trying to help the team on and off the pitch, trying to help the younger players and  try to help the team to become champions," he added.