I-L: Pune FC face leaders Bengaluru FC
Pune FC will be eager to shrug off their recent run of disappointing results when they face league-leaders Bengaluru FC in a potentially season-defining match at the KSFA Stadium in Bengaluru on Friday.
Playing their fourth consecutive away game, a win will be vital for third placed Pune FC (30 pts) to keep their title hopes alive.
Returning to Bengaluru after almost two years, Pune FC will also be keen to maintain their healthy I-League record in the city. Back in 2010-11, Pune FC came out 2-1 winners over the erstwhile HAL SC and the following season they pumped six goals past the same opponents (HAL 4-6 Pune FC in 2011-12).
After a disappointing 2-3 loss to Churchill Brothers in the previous round, Pune FC will be optimistic while aspiring for a positive result as they enter a hectic schedule playing eight matches at home, away and overseas in the next thirty days.
Post the match on Sunday, Pune FC had a few sessions in Goa acclimatising to the artificial turf before flying to Bengaluru.
Going into the game, Pune FC will be missing services of a number of key players. While first choice keeper Amrinder Singh (red-card in previous game) and talismanic defender Anas Edathodika (four yellow cards) will be serving their respective one match suspension, medio Dhanpal Ganesh is out with an injury.
However, Pune FC will be boosted by the return of influential defender Calum Angus. The Englishman returns to the squad after missing the previous game due to personal reasons and will provide stability at the back.
Joining him in the squad will be experienced left back Nicolau Borges and back up 'keeper Shahinlal Meloly.
Speaking at the pre-match Press Conference ahead of the game, Snoei said, "We are excited to play. It's going to be nice game between two teams who want to play football. Bengaluru FC, like us, always likes to play football. There are very few teams in this league who like to play like that."
Snoei added, "Bengaluru FC have an impressive home record and crowds fill the stadium and that does make you feel strong. Like Bengaluru, we too are a new club that is trying to bring the youth to the stadiums."
Skipper Douhou Pierre knows the importance of the game ahead of the hectic schedule and explained, "We lost in the last minute of the (previous) game and it upset us all. But it was good that Bengaluru FC lost too. This game on Friday is our last chance to stay in the hunt at the top. They have lost in Pune and will be looking for revenge but we are focused on our game."
Sitting in the pole position, Bengaluru FC come into the game after a demoralising 0-3 loss to Shillong Lajong FC away from home, something Pune FC will hope to capitalise on.
With Friday's game scheduled to be Bengaluru FC's last at home, the south-Indian side will be keen for a positive result before they end the campaign with a three-match away run.
Bengaluru FC will be banking heavily on captain and striker Sunil Chhetri along with Sean Rooney, his partner up front. The India-international is currently the league's top scorer with 13 goals and the Australian attacker has chipped in with eight more.
Together, the duo has scored 21 out of Bengaluru FC's 34 league goals so far and will pose a challenge for the Pune FC backline led by Calum.
Ironically, the hosts too will be missing services of their first choice keeper Pawan Kumar who was sent off along with Kenyan-born defender Curtis Osano against Lajong.
The only encounter in the past between the two sides was played in Pune in November. Back then, the game ended in favour of Pune FC who will be hoping for a similar result this time around.
(Posted on 27-03-2014)