Mohammedan Sporting take on Pune FC
Just-crowned Durand Cup Champions Mohammedan Sporting will be looking to translate their good run in the I-League as well when they host last season's runners-up Pune FC in the inaugural game of the 2013-14 Season on at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.
While Mohammedan Sporting will be making their return to the top flight for the first time in four years, Pune FC will be playing their first I-League game following the departure of Derrick Pereira, who was in charge of each of their previous 104 I-League matches.
Dutchman Mike Snoei is Derrick's replacement and will be aiming for a winning start much like his counterpart Moshood Bola Abdulaziz, who will be in charge of an I-League game for the first time as well.
Both clubs invested heavily on foreigners in the summer with Mohammedan Sporting recruiting Luciano Sobrosa, Penn Orji, Tolgay Ozbey and Josimar. The quartet have immense experience in Indian football and the Kolkata Club's fortunes this season will revolve around their performances.
Among Pune FC's foreigners, only Ivorian midfielder Douhou Pierre has previous experience of playing in India but the other three have impressive CVs. English central defender Calum Angus is a former Portsmouth youth player while Australian striker James Meyer is a former Hertha Berlin youngster and A-League forward. Spanish-born Raul Fabiani is a former Villarreal 'B' striker and current Equatorial Guinea international.
Hosts Mohammedan Sporting are fresh from their first Durand Cup success in 73 years and coach Moshood is ecstatic.
"It's an honour to guide the team to a victory after 73 years and it is their perseverance of all years (that paid). I respect them for that," Moshood was quoted saying.
Despite finishing second last Season, the aim for Pune FC remains to not only be consistent but also develop players along the way and that is evident from the fact that besides the foreigners they have kept a young Squad.
"Our main objective is to develop youngsters at the club. In this season, you will see good young players getting a fair chance in the first team," Snoei said after his unveiling back in July.
On Matchday one every team starts as equals so both Mohammedan Sporting and Pune FC will be fancying their chances of recording maximum points but the hosts will be without their Brazilian defender Luciano, who suffered an arm injury in the Durand Cup final against ONGC.
'It's a big blow for us. It is unfortunate that he got a bad injury," Moshood lamented.
This will be the first I-league meeting between the sides with their last encounter being a goalless draw in a Federation Cup group match in Kolkata two years ago.
(Posted on 21-09-2013)