Mumbai City FC are all set to take on Chennaiyin FC at the Mumbai Football Arena in what will be the Islanders' final game of the calendar year 2022 on December 24 in an early Christmas Eve kick-off at 5:30 PM.
The Islanders remain unbeaten in the 2022/23 ISL season, winning 7 and drawing 3 out of the 10 games marking the halfway point of the league stage. After a comfortable win against FC Goa winning 4-1 at the Arena, the Islanders returned after a 15-day hiatus and registered a comprehensive 3-0 win against East Bengal to extend their exceptional run. Currently, Des Buckingham's side sit at the top of the league table with 24 points from a possible 30 and have scored a record-breaking 30 goals.
Chennaiyin FC, on the other hand, sit right outside the playoffs spot in the table as they occupy the 7th spot. The Marina Machans have had a bit of a stop-start season as they have struggled to go on a run of victories, having won 2 games from their last five which included a stunning 7-3 victory away from home in Guwahati against NorthEast United thanks to a masterful performance from Abdenasser El Khayati. Thomas Brdaric's side come into tomorrow's fixture following a 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters.
Coach Des Buckingham addressed the media ahead of the fixture against Chennaiyin FC speaking of his team's performance and said, “The first nine games before the break, I think the first two or three we started as well as we could, but I think we got better game by game. Now to have a small break mid-season for us and for players to spend time going back and seeing families and friends was refreshing and rejuvenating for everyone. I think it just gives them a little bit more of a lift, and we've certainly seen that now on the three occasions that we've done that and the pleasing thing for us was to see that against NorthEast and then we saw it again last week when we did not get the result, but the performance was there. The players, they're all fit, fresh, and ready to go and finish off the second half of the season strongly.”
He went on to talk about how the squad’s composition is helping them implement different styles of play, as he said, “We've gone about our recruitment to try and have two players in every position. At the moment we don't have that in certain areas, but at times in games last year is where we maybe would have struggled to change our approach over the start or during the game. I think what you start to see with our full-backs and midfield is that we've got different ways to approach a game. One player may offer us a little bit more defensive security and another may offer us a little bit more going forward in terms of attacking how we want to play. So, it's about picking the right moments and players for each game and then seeing how the game plays has been key for us this season.”
Coach Buckingham was accompanied by goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa who spoke about his playing time and the work he is putting in behind the scenes in training, “I think part of our job is to sometimes make mistakes and what matters is how we come back from those mistakes. In the background, we are doing what we can to minimize our mistakes. We are working with our goalkeeping coach Ramos and he's been very helpful in analysing our games. The mistakes that lead to goals can only be seen by the audience but there are other mistakes that happen that the spectators don't notice. So, we look at those mistakes also and try to correct them in practice.”
Buckingham ended the press conference by highlighting the unrelenting support at the Mumbai Football Arena as he said, “We're looking forward to having a packed house and a full house at the Mumbai Football Arena. I've spoken about this before, we may not be the biggest in terms of attendance but coming to the Arena for me is a totally different and special experience because of the closeness of the pitch and the atmosphere that's created because of what goes on before and after the games in terms of the entertainment. It certainly spills onto the pitch because of the fans. The players feel it. The staff feel it and I'd like to think then it drives the performances and certainly, we'll do as much as we can on Christmas Eve to put on the best performance so we can get to send our fans home as happy as possible.”
Des Buckingham has confirmed the availability of Rostyn Griffiths as he returns from a minor injury.
Where To Watch
The game will kick off at 5:30 pm IST and will be broadcast live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar, and Jio TV for all viewers in India. For our global fans, you can download the OneFootball app, find your broadcaster at indiansuperleague.com/