Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham expects the Islanders to improve from their previous showing, stating that his team have learned valuable lessons from their 3-0 defeat to Al Shabab in their first meeting, earlier in the competition.

Group B toppers Al Shabab have shown themselves to be by far and away stronger than their rivals, racking up ten points after four games and establishing a six-point gap between themselves and the second-placed team. They aren’t expected to take their foot off the pedal against the Mumbai side. A draw against the Islanders would secure them a place in the knockout stages.

On the other hand, Mumbai City FC desperately needs a positive result as they remain locked in a three-horse battle for the second spot. Buckingham’s players will have revenge on their minds when they take the field against the Saudi Arabian opponents, as in the previous encounter, Al-Shabab had a convincing 3-0 win over them.

Ahead of their clash against Al Shabab, the Islanders head coach addressed the media during the official pre-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts from the coach’s press conference:

What can we expect from Mumbai City FC this time against Al Shabab?

It’s a game we’re looking forward to, our fifth game in the competition and we are ready to take on Al Shabab. They are a wonderful team who are at the top of the table and they have been playing some good football. We played them in the first game and they beat us 3-0. So, we’ve taken some learning's from our last game against Al Shabab.

You mentioned that you have taken some learning from the last game. Can we know the lesson that you learned?

Yeah, I won't give too much away. But again, it's okay, just focusing on one area. But we know across the field, if we close off one area, they have strengths in others. So it's important that as a collective and as a team, those players that take to the field, do stick together, and we stick to our game plan and we stick to it as well as for the full game. And if we do that, we'll keep ourselves in the game firstly, and secondly, it'll give us an opportunity to really start showcasing our football and build upon the football that we've shown we are capable of playing.

In comparison to your Al Shabab game, your team played some attacking football in other games. Will we see the same attacking football tomorrow?

Yeah, well throughout the tournament, we've slowly got players back. The first time when we played them, we didn't have our attacking players available to us. One of them, unfortunately, had COVID and wasn't available for that game, then we had our leading goal scorer who wasn't available for that game because of a slight injury. But now both the players are in contention,  hopefully, we'll see after today's training session to at least compete and contend for tomorrow's matchday squad.

As the tournaments went on, we developed and progressed our playing style.  But again, yes we're up to adding that attacking component to our game to try and score some goals because we're capable of doing that.

What are your learning experiences from AFC Championship till now?

It’s a good exposure to our players to show them the high level on a more consistent basis of both players and teams. But it's a level that they've shown that they can compete at, you know, so it's the speed of the game, the quality and the technical ability of the payers, and then making sure that the small details to the game plan can become a big one.

So there's a lot of learnings and a lot of experiences, which will certainly we have banked already, which will take us into the final two games. But over the six games, it will help us hugely as a group going back into the ISL for next season.

Do you think that Indian football is ready to qualify for the next level in the AFC Champions League?

Again that’s the beauty of football. We had a wonderful team from Goa that came here for the first time last year and, and showed what could be done, they got three draws, and performed extremely well.

Now we have come here, and we've been able to better that in terms of points and pick up the first win. But again, we're not satisfied with that, we feel that we can go on and do a little bit more still within this tournament.

I'm confident that the more exposure to these players, whether it's our club or other clubs get at this level, with more opportunities they'll be able to come and show what they can do.