I-L: Pune FC eager to break East Bengal jinx
Pune FC hopes for change in fortunes when they face Kolkata-giants East Bengal in a rescheduled I-League Round-3 encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday.
With title aspirations taking a major setback having earned just one point from the last three league games, sixth-placed Pune FC (31 pts) will have their task cut out when they face third-placed East Bengal (34 pts).
Moreover, with a game in hand, Pune FC does have a chance to improve their current position and finish in the top-3; something which will be on the back of the players' minds providing added motivation.
The fixture will be Pune FC's first against the Kolkata-side this season after it was postponed due to the hosts' AFC Cup commitments back in October. Moreover, it will be the first of the back-to-back games against East Bengal and with Pune FC hosting them the following week, they would like to earn maximum points before travelling back.
Furthermore, with their last win over East Bengal coming almost three years back, Pune FC will be eager to break their jinx and end a five match winless run against the Kolkata-giants.
Pune FC goes into the game after playing out a thrilling 3-3 away draw against Myanmar-side Nay Pyi Taw FC and will be keen to take positives out of it.
Pune FC Coach Mike Snoei was happy with the mentality shown by the team in the last game but expects more as Pune FC prepare for a final assault in the league.
Speaking at the pre-match Press Conference, Coach Snoei said, "We will fight and work and try to bring in some quality. It's a fantastic stadium and we had a great win against Mohammedan Sporting here, so hopefully we can make it very difficult for East Bengal."
"East Bengal is a team with fantastic quality. They are always in the running for trophies. May be we can put pressure on them and we do have the quality to do that," he added speaking about the opponents.
On the team news front, Pune FC has travelled with the same 18-man squad from Myanmar to the city of joy, while medio Mumtaz Akhtar has flown in from Pune as reinforcement giving the Coach options ahead of the big game.
Striker Mirjan Pavlovic did participate in the training sessions, but might be a doubt after the Australian picked up an injury early on in the previous match.
Hosts East Bengal go into the game on the back of a seven match unbeaten run which includes four wins. Moreover, having four games in hand and a shot at the title, the Kolkata-side will be a tough nut to crack.
With South Sudan international and ex-Pune FC striker James Moga out injured, East Bengal will be banking heavily on Nigerian striker Chidi Edeh (6 goals) to get the goals upfront.
Supporting him from the midfield will be Japanese playmaker Ryuiji Sueoka (4 goals) and winger Lalrindika Ralte (2 goals) and Harmanjot Khabra.
The hosts will also be missing services of talismanic defender Uga Okpara. The Nigerian defender is injured leaving a hole in the defense, something Pune FC will hope to capitalise on.
Over the years, both sides have met ten times with East Bengal having an upperhand boasting six wins compared to Pune FC's two.
Thus, a win on the morrow will not only help Pune FC break their jinx but also help them improve their overall record against East Bengal.
Form Run (Last five matches, all competitions)
Pune FC (6th, 31 pts): D-L-L-D-L
East Bengal (3rd, 34 pts): W-W-D-W-D
(Posted on 11-04-2014)