Mumbai City FC are set to make their debut in Asia’s biggest club football competition, the 2022 AFC Champions League, when they take on Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab FC in their opening Group Stage match on April 8 at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Islanders are placed in Group B in the West Region alongside Al Jazira (UAE), Al Shabab (Saudi Arabia), and Air Force Club (Iraq).

“This is only the second time a club from India has competed at this level after FC Goa last year. They picked up three draws, so three points across the period, and they showed what Indian players and what Indian teams can do at this level,” said head coach Des Buckingham at a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

“So for me, we want to try and do something no other Indian club has done before, which is to win a game at this competition and we take it from there.

“We’ve got a very important game against an excellent team in two days. But for me, it would be trying to create our own relative success and history. And, that would be for me, trying to win a game at this level.”

Ahead of the match, the team held a preparatory camp at Al Forsan in Abu Dhabi, UAE. They also played two friendly games against UAE Pro League side Al Ain FC and Second Division club Al Hilal United FC.

“We had two good friendlies, especially against Al Ain. We know they are an excellent team and have been consistent. They played a strong team against us with only four of their players out on international duty. It gave an opportunity for players to, firstly, see the level of competition and see the level of the teams that we will be competing against,” Buckingham said.

“And, it also gave the players an opportunity to test themselves against those players. So, preparation in that game especially was excellent. The second game allowed us to work on the shape and structure that we will be going with in the Champions League. Again, the players performed extremely well, so I am very happy with them.”

Speaking about the team’s preparedness, Buckingham said, “Both the friendly games are going to serve a great purpose for us going into not just our first game, but for the six across the Champions League because we will be up against are very good players and teams.

“We know we have to be smart to pick our moments to do what we want to do. But, I feel with the ISL season as well as the learnings from that, as well as from the last two weeks that we’ve done as much as we can to prepare ourselves for what we are going into.”