An epic showdown awaits as Mumbai City FC take on Jamshedpur FC in a high-stakes playoff on April 4th at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, Kerala with action kicking off at 8:30pm. Mumbai City FC and Jamshedpur FC are the last two League Shield winners of the Indian Super League and the winner of this match will secure a coveted berth in the Group Stage of the 2023-24 AFC Champions League, the pinnacle of club football in Asia.
Mumbai City FC had a record-breaking season in 2022-23, winning the ISL League Shield in a record 18 games and remaining unbeaten until then. The team's solid defence and clinical attack made them a formidable force throughout the season, and they will be looking to carry that momentum into the one-off qualifier against Jamshedpur FC. Furthermore, last season, Mumbai City FC became the first Indian club to secure a win at the AFC Champions League - an achievement that they will be keen to replicate.
On the other hand, Jamshedpur FC, who won the ISL League Shield in 2021-22 season, had a lukewarm 22-23 campaign with the Red Miners finishing 10th in the league standings. While the numbers may paint a less desirable picture, Aidy Boothroyd's side have shown great resilience and fighting spirit throughout the season and ended their league campaign on a high, winning three and drawing one in their last four games.
Des Buckingham addressed the media virtually before traveling to Manjeri and spoke about his side's contests against Jamshedpur FC this season - a 1-1 draw at home and a hard-fought 2-1 win away.
“Jamshedpur are a good team. I think they showed that throughout the year they certainly showed it against us twice and then they showed it in the last four or five games that they had at the end of the regular season when they kind of found their groove and found their way of playing. So, it's a very simple one for us - they have caused us problems because they're a good team and they have got good individuals with a good coach. We have to be on top of our game and we need to do everything that we can to do what we did in the league stage, which was to come away with two results," said the 38-year old.
Buckingham went on to talk about the momentum that the Islanders have built throughout the season and the impact this brief hiatus would have. “I think having this playoff game would be difficult if we were starting the season. But we're coming off the back end of the season. We've got the same playing group. Obviously we extended our season a little bit longer with the semi-finals. So, I think it's a little bit easier maybe than what it would have been if it was the start of the season. The main thing is we're trying to keep the momentum that we did have carrying into this game and I feel we've done that. From a training point of view, I can use last night's training session as an example, it was very sharp. The players have got a very clear understanding on what we're trying to do. Furthermore, we've held internal games and also had a friendly leading into this this game as well to try and do everything we can to position ourselves as well as we can before the game.”
Mumbai born defender Rahul Bheke, who etched his name in the record books when he became the first Indian player to score in the AFC Champions League, is eager to go back to the pinnacle of Asian football. “Obviously, as a player we all want to play at the highest level and this is the one stage where all Indians dream of playing in the Champions League. We have it on our minds now as well. We are motivated and ready to perform because we know if we can get past this game, we have another opportunity to play in the Champions League. It's definitely on my mind and we want to get back to the Champions League stage, where we can do well again.”
Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rahul Bheke, Mehtab Singh, Bipin Singh and Phurba Lachenpa are all returning from National Duty. For Phurba and Mehtab, it was their first call up to the Indian Football Team. Head coach Des Buckingham commended the members of the squad who were called for the Indian National Team and said, “A part of my job was to come here and help develop players and if that development takes them on to national teams, then great because I think any player will tell you, to go on and represent your country is matter of great pride for them and the club as well.”
Des Buckingham concluded the press conference feeling confident about his team’s prospects. “Throughout the season, we had to find different way to get results and more often than not we did that We know. We know we have goals everywhere across the field, so it's not a concern, it's just making sure that we do everything we can to put ourselves back in those positions to create those opportunities and make sure we execute when those chances come our way.”
Where To Watch
The game will kick off at 8:30 pm IST and will be broadcast live on the Sony Sports Network and streamed on FanCode for all viewers in India. For our global fans, follow all the action LIVE on our official Twitter account - @MumbaiCityFC.