Will stick to our game plan against ATK Mohun Bagan: MCFC head coach Des Buckingham

Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham believes that sticking with their game plan will do more good than worrying about the opposition as Mumbai City FC host ATK Mohun Bagan at the Mumbai football Arena on this Sunday in matchweek 5 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season.

These two heavyweight teams have huge expectations on them to fight for the League Winners' Shield and this early faceoff would give a huge momentum to the winning team.

Buckingham was accompanied by Vignesh Dakshinamurthy during the pre-match press conference ahead of the match. The coach looked pleased with the luxury of having in-form foreign players but gave a word of caution against the ATK Mohun Bagan players too.

Here are the excerpts from the coach Des Buckingham:

ATK Mohun Bagan came in with a very fine form after a two-match victory including the Kolkata derby. Is there any aspect of their gameplay which worries you ahead of the game?

As I always said, the focus is on us. If we keep on building, we will be better every match day. I am very happy with the progress we made since the first match. Going to Kochi and playing against Kerala Blasters FC is certainly a good performance. If we keep on building ourselves and focus on our defence, we don't have to look so much into the other team. We know we have to be worried about team likes ATK Mohun Bagan, (who) have shown their strength, especially in the last two games, but we spend our time preparing ourselves.

In three of the last four games, you had lesser possession than the opposition except in the Jamshedpur FC game. Is this a conscious effort this season or depends on the opposition?

We want our team to be possession-based and play attacking football. We also look at the stake of the game, and where that possession is taking place. In the Jamshedpur FC game, we had 70% possession and mostly in their half and tried to break them down. In the last game, we were 2-0 up so we don't need to do the high pressing, so possession depends on the stake of the game, and also where and how we have the possession is the key. If the opponent keeps it in their backline if we were 2-0 up, it's fine for us. Only if we need to chase the game, we will do a high press. So, statistics can be chosen both for and against. This year we are having more control of the game than last year.

In the last match, Pereyra Diaz was played ahead of Alberto Noguera, and Greg Stewart played a feeding role in between. Is this a tactical decision concerning the opposition or can we see that more of that in the upcoming games?

We have that luxury. We can go with different approaches. In the Jamshedpur FC game, we started with two foreign centre-backs. In the Kerala Blasters FC match, Diaz has been patient, we started him at Hyderabad and the team played very well along with him. I have seen that good players play very well against their former clubs so we thought from that angle as well. Stewart is deserved to be a midfielder than a forward but if Diaz is not starting then it gives us the luxury to push him forward as well. These many options we didn't have last year.

Mumbai City FC have two extremely good foreign defenders but Mehtab Singh started the season with a bang. So how pleased are you with his performance as you don't need to play two foreigners at the back?

If we look at us, we are almost similar to the last year. The only thing which is changed is the four different foreign players. Mehtab Singh developed hugely in the last twelve months, working extremely hard on and off the field. He played lots of games as well since the last season including the champions league. I was pleased to see his performance. But still, he has a long way to go, and he has the ability and learning capacity to do that. I am excited to see where he can go. But he can't get carried away with four games. It's important to be in control, focus on the next game and continue his form. Except few, all others are similar to the last year. Now the consistency of these players coming into play and learning how we want them to play

You have spoken that player tends to play well against their former clubs. There are few better players than Hugo Boumous in the league. How do you plan to neutralise his threat?

We know the strengths of Hugo Boumous but also other players as well. We won't change our approach. We vary in the individuals they have. We know the threats they will pose as the team. They have good players across the field. If we concentrate too much on one player, we will hurt ourselves. We spent 80% of our time about ourselves and what we do. So, we will deal with Hugo Boumous without affecting our plan too much.

We are expecting a good crowd tomorrow, how excited are you to host such a big game at our venue?

We had over half of the capacity in the last few games. Hopefully, we can expect to sell out if not more than this. Regardless of that, even when the stadium is half full, the noise that comes from our fans creates a good atmosphere. We talk about quantity, when we played against Kerala Blasters FC, it was around 35K, it was a wonderful experience in itself but when we come out here, we can see the quality of the fans and their voices in this wonderful stadium. If we can have double the count before, we can make it a good show in the next game.

Here are the excerpt from Vignesh Dakshinamurthy:

You had a breakout season a few years back, but now you have greater completion in that left-back position along with Sanjeev Stalin and Mandar Rao Dessai. How do you see this scenario and want yourself to cement that position?

When it comes to game time, I am not playing much this season, but as a player I want to train hard and improve at what I am lacking. Whenever I get the chance, I have to be ready, both physically and mentally and that's what I am trying to do. The competition also makes the training session tougher and helps to improve my game, so it's good for me to challenge Dessai and Stalin, and learn new things.

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