Pune host Dempo in their last I-League clash
Pune FC will be eager to end their campaign on a high when they host Dempo SC in an I-League Round 26 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex here Monday.
The season's final game will be crucial for seventh-placed Pune (29 points) as a win against sixth-placed Dempo (32) will see them move up a place and maintain the club's history of finishing in the top half of the standings.
Having dominated head-to-head against the five-time champions, Pune will look to maintain the prevailing record of six wins, two losses and three draws.
Going into the game on the back of a historic 2-0 win over Hong Kong champions Kitchee SC, also the club's first-ever continental win, Pune will be confident and motivated for a similar performance against the Goans.
Furthermore, with influential players Douhou Pierre and Calum Angus back in the squad, coach Mike Snoei expects his side to put on a show.
"It is a do or die battle for us as we push to finish in the top half of the league table and maintain the club legacy. The result (win against Kitchee) was a confidence-booster but we need to follow up the historic feat with a similar result. This is something I've constantly been reminding the players all week long," said the Dutchman.
The visitors come into the game on the back of a 2-4 home loss to champions Bengaluru FC last week and a 1-1 draw against Mumbai FC early in April. On the other hand, Pune, who were involved in a hectic schedule, will be playing their seventh game in April.
Since the league resumed in February, Dempo have played a total of nine games out of which eight were at home. Moreover, the only away game they played was against Churchill Brothers in Goa, making the clash against Pune their first real away game in three months, something the hosts hope to capitalise on.
With Roberto Mendes da Silva Beto missing out, Dempo will be banking heavily on January recruit Tolgay Ozbey. The Australian striker has been in great form since switching loyalties from Mohammedan SC and has netted eight times in seven league games.
Dempo's backline will be marshalled by Australian Simon Colosimo and Afghan international Haroon Amiri, posing a massive challenge for the Pune strike-force led by Mirjan Pavlovic and Riga Mustapha.
Over the years, both sides have faced each other 11 times with Pune boasting six wins against Dempo's two. Additionally, in four games at the Balewadi Stadium, Pune have logged two wins compared to Dempo's single win two years back.
(Posted on 27-04-2014)