I-League: Pune to face Goa challenge
Pune FC will be out to prove their mettle when they host high-flying Sporting Clube de Goa in an I-League Round 17 encounter at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, here on Sunday.
Coming into the game on the back of a three match winless run at home, the game will be crucial for Pune FC who would want to avenge their 2-0 first leg loss to the Goans at Duler earlier in the season while also be hoping to bounce back to winning ways after a 20-odd day breaks.
Currently third in the standings, a win for Pune FC (24 points) will see them go level on points with second-placed Sporting (27 points).
Also, a win with a higher margin not only gives Pune FC a chance to leapfrog the opponents into second place but provides added motivation ahead of a tough league schedule.
Sporting come into the game on the back of a run of good results.
Four consecutive wins in the I-League, followed by a run in the final of the Federation Cup in Kerala sees the team full of confidence as they enter the business end of I-League.
Sporting's form has been attributed much by their foreign quartet who has been leading from the front.
Striker Boima Karpeh (7 goals) and playmaker Ogba Kalu (7 goals) have contributed 14 of Sporting's 22 goals between them while the backline has been marshalled by the ever-present Spanish duo of Arturo Navarro and Gonzalo Neila.
However, the visitors will be missing the services of Arturo, who hasn't travelled with the team this time around.
Pune FC Coach Mike Snoei stressed on improving the performance after the loss against Hanoi T&T FC in the historic AFC Champions League clash, and will hope for a better performance from his team as they enter a crucial three month period.
The hosts will be banking on their good record at Balewadi this season, which includes four wins, one draw and two losses in all competitions.
On the team news front, Pune FC will be missing the services of Nikhil Kadam (injury) and Mumtaz Akhtar (suspension) apart from James Meyer.
After a training session in the morning, Pune FC Assistant Coach Gift Raikhan said, "It's a very important game, and we have been training hard throughout the week."
He added, "A win tomorrow will be very vital as we enter a tough three month period and we want to start on the right foot."
Pune FC will be up against three ex-players in the Sporting ranks.
Karpeh, who missed the first leg due to suspension, and second transfer-window signing, defender Nallappan Mohanraj will face Pune FC for the first time after changing teams apart from medio Velito D'Cruz.
For Pune FC, midfielders Arata Izumi and Douhou Pierre have scored in the past against Sporting while Pratesh Shirodkar, Victorino Fernandes and Kalu Ogba have done the opposite for the Goans.
Over the years, Pune FC and Sporting have faced each other seven times with either team logging two wins each.
However, Pune FC does have the upper hand at Balewadi with a win and two draws from three games and will hope to better their record against the Goans.
The match kicks off at 7.00 PM
FORM RUN (Last 5 I-League Matches)
Pune FC (3rd, 24 pts): L-W-L-L-D
Sporting Clube de Goa (2nd, 27 pts): W-W-W-W-L
02/11/13 - IL - Sporting Goa 2-0 Pune FC at Goa
20/01/13 - IL - Pune FC 0-0 Sporting Goa at Pune
26/11/12 - IL - Sporting Goa 1-2 Pune FC at Goa
01/02/12 - IL - Sporting Goa 4-2 Pune FC at Goa
28/10/11 - IL - Pune FC 2-2 Sporting Goa at Pune
09/05/10 - IL - Pune FC 4-0 Sporting Goa at Pune
17/10/09 - IL - Sporting Club 2-2 Pune FC at Goa
(Posted on 15-02-2014)