It’s a double header on the continental front for the Indian clubs on Monday, November 6, as Mumbai City FC host Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal FC at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, while Sree Gokulam Kerala FC begin their AFC Women’s Club Championship campaign against the mighty Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan, in Chonburi, Thailand.
Neymar’s absence no deterrent for Mumbai City
Neymar will not be present but that won’t make a difference for Mumbai City in their AFC Champions League 2023-24 Group D clash against Al Hilal SFC on Monday, November 6.
Mumbai City will head into the tie with no points to show, while two-time AFC Champions League winners Al Hilal look set to advance to the Round of 16. Mumbai City have found life difficult this season after having impressed in their AFC Champions League debut last year.
Mumbai City head coach Desmond Buckingham said, “I can understand why the spectators are a bit disappointed (at not being able to see Neymar). I could certainly see the excitement on the players’ faces when the draw was made. As players and coaches, you want to play the very best. It’s a shame he has an injury, but with the quality that Al Hilal have, they already pose a big challenge. Let’s hope for a good game of football.
The Indian side have no points on the board, and to make matters worse, did not find the net even once in their previous three matches.
Al Hilal, meanwhile, are in their groove as they lead the group on goal difference after surviving a scare in their opening 1-1 draw against Uzbekistan’s Navbahor.
Sitting at the top of the Saudi Pro League 2023-24, Al Hilal have shown no signs of missing the injured Neymar, who is recovering from surgery, with Aleksandar Mitrovic leading the lines admirably.
Al Hilal head coach Jorge Jesus said, “It is a pleasure to be here and to play the AFC Champions League in India. Mumbai City are a quality team. They have not been able to turn that quality into results so far, but we know how good they are, and we will be prepared for them.”
Gokulam Kerala bank on experience against Urawa Red Diamonds
Only Gokulam Kerala FC have the distinction of appearing in the AFC Women’s Club Championship, as they go head-to-head against Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies in Chonburi, Thailand.
The Malabarians are determined to make the most of the experience. “We are privileged to be part of this tournament again. We couldn’t, unfortunately, compete last and we are looking forward to making up for that,” said Gokulam Kerala head coach Anthony Andrews. “The approach will be to take it one match at a time and see how far we can go.”
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies head coach Naoki Kusunose said the team wants to emulate the men’s side, who are three-time AFC Champions League winners.
“We have prepared well for the tournament and despite the fact that we will be making our debut, we want to challenge for the title,” said Kusunose. “We have several national team players and we will do our best in the tournament.”