Domestic action resumes for the Islanders as Mumbai City return to the Mumbai Football Arena after three weeks to host Hyderabad FC in a bid to make it consecutive home wins in the Indian Super League.
Des Buckingham’s side recorded a thrilling 2-1 win over Kerala Blasters in the season’s first home game for the Islanders, courtesy of goals from Jorge Pereyra Díaz and Apuia on either side of a Danish Farooq header and grabbed all three points in dramatic fashion.
With the departure of Manolo Marquez over the summer and the arrival of Conor Nestor at the helm, Hyderabad FC are a side in transition. Having lost all of their three games so far, the Nizams are yet to open their account in the 2023-24 ISL and come into tonight’s fixture off the back of a 1-0 defeat at home to Chennaiyin FC.
With his sights set on tonight’s return to the MFA, Des Buckingham addressed the media ahead of the Hyderabad FC clash as he said, “I’m forward to getting back to our domestic season in the ISL where we have enjoyed a good start. We’re also mindful about the fact that Hyderabad are a different unit compared to last season, drawing a lot of similarities with us when it comes to changes to their squad. They are still finding their way with some signs of good football in their three games so far. For us, it is exciting to return to the MFA, to perform in front of our fans and continue doing what we did against Kerala.”
The Islanders’ Dutch attacker Nasser El Khayati joined Buckingham for pre-match media duties and outlined his expectations for tonight’s fixture. “Maybe the first reaction of many people after looking at this fixture would be that because Hyderabad did not register any wins in their 3 games so far, it would be an easy outing for us but let me assure you that there are high chances it might not be the case. That being said, with us playing in our home and our players having lots of confidence, all there is left to do is continue the good work from the last game. It would not be easy but if we work hard and show diligence, I am certain that we will be walking away with the right result,” said El Khayati.
The 34-year-old enjoyed his first taste of the Mumbai Football Arena last week and was delighted to take away an ‘English’ experience. “I liked it quite a bit. It had a bit of an English atmosphere, I played in England so it was nice. I was impressed with what the coach said about the fans and hopefully we get that energy and enthusiasm from the crowd for every game because we need them and their participation only motivates us further to put up stellar performances. They are the 12th man that football sides need to win games and we are looking forward to their continued support as we approach a bunch of home games,” stated El Khayati about the Islanders’ loud and vociferous home support.
With three crucial home games coming up consecutively before the international break, Des Buckingham is hopeful his side can go from strength to strength. “Yes, we enjoy it. We have been on the road, in the air, overseas, everywhere literally. For the players, for Nasser specially and for the ones who have families here, to spend time in Mumbai is wonderful. To have 2 weeks at home would be beneficial in many ways. It allows us to prepare better, and the players are also a lot fresher and fitter to play the games. We like to think we put on a good show for the fans last year. We have only played a single home match so far and it was thrilling to see their support and how loud they were in that game against Kerala. We want that again when we play Hyderabad. We want it again when we play Punjab and we would love to have it in every single home game,” said Buckingham as he signed off from the pre-match press conference.
The Islanders will miss the services of Yoëll van Nieff and Rostyn Griffiths who are suspended for three games and one game respectively.
The game will kick off at 8pm IST today, October 28 and will be broadcasted on Sports 18 and Jio Cinema.