Mumbai City FC head coach Des Buckingham said on Sunday that his side will have to be at the top of their game against Jamshedpur FC when the two teams clash in a one-time playoff match for qualification to the AFC Champions League 2023-24 group stage.
The winner of the game between Mumbai City FC and Jamshedpur FC on April 4 at the Payyanad stadium in Manjeri, Kerala, will be India’s representative in the Champions League group stage.
“Jamshedpur are a good team – they have shown it throughout the year and against us twice,” Mumbai City FC coach Buckingham told the media on Sunday.
“They showed it, particularly in the last four or five matches that they have found their groove. They have caused us problems because they are a good team and have good individuals and a good coach.
“We have to be on top of our game, we need to do everything we can to do what we did in the group stage, which was to come away with two results,” he said.
India and Mumbai City FC defender Rahul Bheke said that the team was motivated to do well in the upcoming game since it gives them a chance to return to the Champions League group stage once again.
Bheke said, “We are all very motivated and ready to play this game. It is there in my mind that I want to win this game and get back to playing the Champions League.”
Mumbai City FC will train on Sunday and Monday before leaving for the venue of the clash, and the coach Buckingham said apart from five members who are on national duty, the rest of the squad is fit and ready.
“The preparations have been as good as they can be. We shuffled a few things after the playoff and five players have gone to the national team which is a wonderful achievement.
“With the exception of those five, everyone is back in training and everybody is available. We train today and tomorrow before we fly out for the game,” he said.
“We have had a look back at our last season, we want to be a team that is successful. When I look back at the last 12 months, we finished second in the Champions League group stage, we made it to the Durand Cup final, we won the ISL league by being unbeaten until that point and now we are putting ourselves in a position to go into the Champions League again,” Buckingham said.
“For me, it has been a wonderful 12 months, but this is not where we want to finish. We have this one game and the Super Cup afterwards, which we are looking forward to.
“We are not quite finished yet. It is a game that we know we have to be on top of,” said Buckingham, adding that he was under the impression that this contest would be on home-and-away basis and not a one-off game.
Buckingham said the team is mindful of the fact that an opportunity to play in the Champions League won’t arrive soon.
“The Champions League is the highest level of football. We will try and do what we were fortunate to do last year. We are only the second Indian club to go to the Champions League and we were the first team to win a game.
“We got three results in six games that allows us to show what players from here can do and hopefully the Indian players and this league can do,” he said.
“We are also mindful of the fact that this could be the last opportunity for an Indian club to go to the Asian champions league. For a couple of years we have had hunger, we have experienced what it is,” he said.