Indian Super League (ISL) side Mumbai City FC have been drawn in Group D of the 2023-24 AFC Champions League along with Al Hilal SFC (Saudi Arabia), Nassaji Mazandaran (Iran) and Navbahor (Uzbekistan) at the Group Stage Draw that took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday, August 24.
Mumbai City FC secured their second appearance in Asia’s biggest club football competition after lifting the 2022-23 Indian Super League Winners’ Shield and then subsequently defeating 2021-22 ISL Shield Winners Jamshedpur FC 3-1 in a single-leg playoff in April 2023.
The Islanders created history in their maiden AFC Champions League appearance in April 2022 after finishing second in Group B behind Saudi Arabian club Al Shabab, narrowly missing out on a spot in the knockout rounds. Des Buckingham’s side secured two wins in the process – both against Iraq’s Air Force Club – and became the first Indian club to win a game at the AFC Champions League.
Also Check: AFC Champions League 2023-24 Group details
Al Hilah are the strongest team in Group D, having reached the finals of the previous edition. They have won the AFC Champions League on four occasions, more than any other club.
They have further bolstered their squad for the upcoming season with some big-name signings including Neymar Jr, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Yassine Bounou and Aleksandar Mitrovic.
FC Nassaji Mazandaran will be making their debut in the competition alongside Navbahor. Mazandaran qualified for the AFC Champions League by winning the Hazfi Cup during the 2021-22 season, which was the club’s first-ever trophy.
Navbahor Namangan finished as runners-up of the 2022 Uzbekistan Super League. They beat Qatari side Al Wakrah in their playoff clash to book their place in the competition.
The matches in the AFC Champions League will be played on a home-and-away format on a round-robin basis, with the group winners and three best runners-up teams across five west zone groups advancing for the Round of 16. Mumbai City FC will play their home games at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune.
Des Buckingham, Head Coach – Mumbai City FC said, “The teams in the AFC Champions League, they’re the best in their own country. As coaches and players, we always want to test ourselves against the best. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to continue what we did last time around and to showcase what Indian football can do on that stage. We’re looking forward to giving a good account of ourselves against the likes of Al Hilal, Nassaji and Navbahor – some of the best clubs in Asia – and represent not just Mumbai but Indian football as a whole in the best way possible.”
Kandarp Chandra, CEO – Mumbai City FC said, “All of us at Mumbai City FC were very proud of what we achieved in the 2022 AFC Champions League. Now in our second appearance, we have an opportunity to build on it. Des, his staff and the squad are focused on what will be an exciting and challenging season ahead and we hope we can put up a strong showing in front of our fans against some of Asia’s best clubs.”