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Posted on Dec 01, 07:33PM | IANS
A positive Pune FC will be out to improve its position in the points table against Mohun Bagan AC in the I-League Round 9 Sunday.
The hosts will be hoping to encash the drop in their opponents' form and work towards getting back to winning ways at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi here.
Having broken a two-match disappointment at home with a win over Sporting Cube Goa in Goa, Pune FC's objective will be to extend the winning run and make it two-in-a-row.
Interestingly, Pune FC will also expect to take inspiration from the victory they logged against the Kolkata team last season when they rallied to win 2-1. The win is the only one Pune FC has in seven meetings.
New coach Karim Benchirifa's Bagan, meanwhile, go into the game on the end of two disappointing performances - a draw with Mumbai FC before Dempo SC spanked them 0-3. Moreover, with the Kolkata derby against East Bengal coming up, the pressure on the squad is clearly mounting.
Incidentally, the first time Pune FC faced Bagan in Pune (2009-10), Karim was in-charge and managed a 3-1 win thanks to a Chidi Edeh hat-trick, which in a way is also a score to settle for coach Derrick Pereira.
Pune FC coach explains, "I do not want to comment on their team. But then again every team has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Neutralising the strengths by putting pressure on weaknesses should win the game."
While Bagan's over dependence on striker Odafa Okoli will be a job on hand, injuries have been concerning their coach ever since taking over a week back. Odafa Okolie has scored six out of their eight goals this season and also managed to net against Pune FC in both games last season.
Strikers Tolgay Ozbey, Anil Kumar, Manish Maithani, defender Khelemba Singh and goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya are all set to miss out due to injuries. Defenders Syed Nabi and Eche Anyichie are carrying knocks but may appear.
Pune FC, however, cannot take their opponents lightly. Despite the handicaps, Bagan has a strong force which includes India defender Nirmal Chhetri, ex-Lajong captain Aibor Khongjee, ex-India defender Mehrajuddin Wadoo.
The midfield also boasts of a strong line up. Current India player Jewel Raja, experienced Denson Devadas, winger Snehasis Chakraborty adds rush to the side.
Bagan will miss the services of Biswajit Saha, who serves a one-match suspension after his sending off against Dempo SC.
"Playing Mohun Bagan for any player is a motivation for the players, which should automatically urge them once out on the field," explained Derrick.
"I have told the players to play as per plan and also urged then to enjoy the gift God has given them and put their best foot forward."
Comparatively, Pune FC has a fully fit squad. A clear indication of this fact is the success achieved in Goa with five changes to the playing eleven.
Interestingly, apart from two goalless games, Bagan have opened scoring in all matches against Pune FC, something that will also need to checked.