I-L: Pune FC in a must-win situation
Pune, Feb 8 : Pune FC faces a test of belief when they take on Mumbai FC in an I-League Round-20 away clash on Saturday.
With progress stalled for the past three rounds, Pune FC's aim is to shrug off the winless phase they've had at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex that has bothered them since Round 12.
Pune FC Coach Derrick Pereira however, was optimistic on the eve of the match. "The players are positive as usual. All teams go through a phase of ups and down. It's been our turn... I guess. God willing we hope to change that trend tomorrow."
Host's Mumbai FC themselves go into the game with two draws in their last 2 league games, something Pune FC will have an eye and cash in on. Pune FC Coach, however, is clear in thought, "My advice to all is to think about winning, be positive and above all put in the hard work."
Both teams go into the game with near-similar runs in their respective campaigns. Mumbai FC's mid-season rally surged their position from the bottom of the standings to 5th place after Round 12. But following that, in their 6 games, the Mumbai team has managed only 1 win and their momentum somewhat halted.
Pune FC, likewise, had a 9-match unbeaten run (includes 7 wins), but ever since Round-15 have only managed 1 point (vs Sporting Clube de Goa; at home).
The Coach explains, "Results in some matches have somehow not gone our way, except for some matches where we did not play well and lost."
"In fact, the last match (vs. Salgaocar FC) was the result of the previous match (vs East Bengal) wherein a lot of effort was put in but the result went against us... It mentally affected us a lot and we need to shake that off and get back to performing."
While Pune FC has struggled at home, the one-factor that swings in their favour is the better record they hold in these 'Maha Derbies'. So far Pune FC has won 3 and drawn 3 out of the 8 played.
Pune FC have always done well to hold their fort whenever this fixture has been played in Pune, with 2 back-to-back wins in the last 2 fixtures at Balewadi (where Pune FC have managed to score thrice on both occasions), preceded by 3 draws.
The key for Pune FC will be to get the first goal and counter the Mumbai side's typical time-wasting theatrics they have so often employed.
Strikers' Subash Singh (3) and Jeje Lalpekhlua have both netted in the past and much will be expected from them. Likewise, James Moga (who missed the Leg-1 due to sickness) adds up to Pune FC's variety in their quest to turn out a result from this crucial Derby encounter.
"I've always said, we need to collect points match by match. We are a very good team and are also mentally strong to overcome all this. All we need to do is work hard," Pune FC Coach added.
Mumbai FC would bank on their ever-reliant foreign recruits, with experienced Yusuf Yakubu (6) leading their charts accompanied by Nigerian N.D Opara (5).
Even the defensive Evans Quao (4) has chipped in highlighting Mumbai's reliance on set-pieces to get past opposition defences. In fact, in the last four fixtures, it has been only their foreigners who have breached the Pune FC citadel.
The exception to the reliance on foreign player is Goan attacker Gabriel Fernandes, who has netted four goals in the league.
Both Pune FC and Mumbai FC will miss the services of one player each due to suspension. Pune FC's left-back Gurjinder Kumar saw a red card against Salgaocar FC in the last game, while it was midfielder James Singh (Mumbai FC) in their draw against Dempo SC in home and away games respectively.
Pune FC have decided to drop midfielder-striker Daisuke Nishiguchi from their 18, while medios Nikhil Kadam and Velington Rocha has been incorporated for the two slots that open in the 18-member squad.
With the game being the last before the I-League break, Pune FC hope to end on a positive note.
FORM RUN (Last 5 Matches)
Pune FC (4th, 30 points): L-L-D-L-W
Mumbai FC (6th, 26 points): D-D-W-L-D
PFC 'Away' Form: L-W-W-W-W-W-W-L
MFC 'Home' Form: D-W-D-W-W-W-D-W-W-L
11/10/12 IL Pune FC 3-2 Mumbai FC at Pune
18/01/12 IL Pune FC 3-0 Mumbai FC at Pune
18/12/11 IL Mumbai FC 0-0 Pune FC at Pune
15/05/11 IL Pune FC 1-1 Mumbai FC at Pune
08/12/10 IL Mumbai FC 2-0 Pune FC at Kolhapur
03/04/10 IL Mumbai FC 1-2 Pune FC at Mumbai
24/10/09 IL Pune FC 1-1 Mumbai FC at Pune
23/04/08 I2D Mumbai FC 1-0 Pune FC at Guwahati