I-L: Pune FC keen to build on confidence
Pune, Feb 18 : Pune FC entertains Mohammedan Sporting with an eye on building upon their recent performance in an I-League Round-21 game at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, Pune on Wednesday.
The game for both sides on the morrow is a first in Pune and has enough reason to be tight.
Third-placed Pune FC for starts will bank on the purposeful performance put up against Sporting Goa two days back. Though, the game ended 1-1, Pune FC put an end to their three game losing run. Importantly, Pune FC, with a host of changes to their line-up, proved sharp and confident.
On the other hand, Mohammedan Sporting goes into the game on the back of a winning the IFA Shield and above all are seeking to break five match I-League winless run. Currently, Md. Sporting languishes in 12th place.
Oddly enough, Pune FC will face Mohammedan after they won a cup tournament for the second time this season. Back in September, Pune FC opened their league campaign with a 3-1 win over the Kolkata-side after they had won the Durand Cup.
Since then, the Mohammedan squad has undergone a lot of changes with an influx on loan signings apart from a new coach.
Now coached by Sanjay Sen, a new-look Mohammedan will be banking on I-League's joint-top scorer Josimar Da Silva Martins who has scored nine of their thirteen league goals this season. For the record, the Brazilian also scored the opening goal of the game in the first leg between the two teams.
Joining him upfront and making his debut will be Japanese striker Taro Hasegawa who the club signed after releasing Australian Tolgay Ozbey during the recently concluded transfer window.
The visitors' strong defense will be led by Brazilian Luciano Sabrosa and Mehrajuddin Wadoo with India-internationals Nirmal Chhetri and Syed Rahim Nabi providing assistance on the flanks.
Playmaker Penn Orji will lead the midfield along with either Sandeep Sangha or Ishfaq Ahmed, hoping to provide the supply for Josimar and Taro upfront.
On Pune FC's team news front, medio Mumtaz Akhtar is back after a one game suspension and will provide options in the midfield. However, winger Nikhil Kadam and James Meyer will be missing from action.
Nonetheless, Coach Mike Snoei is positive ahead of the game and has praised the players who stepped up when a host of first-team regulars were missing from action during the weekend.
Speaking on the sidelines of a training session at the Pune FC Practice Pitches at Mamurdi, he said: "We played a very good game against Sporting Goa during the weekend and were unlucky not to get all three points. However, it was a great performance by all the youngsters who stepped up for the occasion. Still we need to work a bit on our finishing."
Snoei further added, "Mohammedan are a strong team and come into the match after winning a tournament. That gives them confidence and they will pose a challenge (even though their league form is not good). But we will be playing to our strengths and hope to get the maximum."
Over the years, both sides have met thrice in three different competitions with either side sharing a win apart from a draw. However, Pune FC has come on top in the only top-flight game between the two sides and will hope to maintain a clean slate against their opponents.
Originally scheduled in March, this fixture was preponed due to Pune FC's AFC Cup commitment.
21/9/2013 - IL - Md. Sporting 1-3 Pune FC at Kolkata
21/9/2011 - Fed Cup - Pune FC 0-0 Md. Sporting at Kolkata
26/4/2008 - IL 2nd Div - Pune FC 2-3 Md. Sporting at Guwahati
FORM RUN (Last Five I-League Matches)
Pune FC (3rd, 25 pts): D-L-W-L-L
Mohammedan SC (12th, 13 pts): L-L-D-D-D
Image credit: Pune FC
--IBNS (Posted on 18-02-2014)
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