Pune FC keenly look ahead to reverse their fortunes when they host new-entrants Bengaluru FC in a crucial top of the table I-League 2013-14 Round-9 clash at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi in Pune on Wednesday.
The away game setback Pune FC experienced looms large. However, with Coach Mike Snoei and Co. back in familiar surrounds, the idea will be to exploit advantage and move on.
Both teams clash for the first time making Wednesday’s encounter important in terms of placing themselves on the I-League table apart from a high-voltage face off. With only one point separating the two teams in the top-four (Bengaluru FC – 2nd, 14 pts; Pune FC – 4th, 13 pts), the Round-9 encounter for Pune FC means more.
While Salgaocar FC stay atop with 16 points, a positive result with a combination of other results would see either Bengaluru FC or Pune FC assure at least a second spot while also having a chance to top the table going into the international break.
After losing the tag of being the only unbeaten team in the league, Pune FC looks up to the perfect home record – three wins out of three and no goals conceded – as inspiration. Pune FC as by far been the only team to have a perfect home record this season.
On the other hand, Bengaluru FC’s good start has been aided by their four wins picked up in their first five games in the league all at home. However, the visitors are still finding their feet on the travels having earned only a point in their two away games so far.
Bengaluru FC might draw solace from the fact that they had time to settle in Pune having arrived for two back-to-back games and being stationed in the city for almost a week. However, their last game against Mumbai FC in Balewadi saw them concede with the very last kick of the match and eventually drop two valuable points.
The visitors’ good form has been primarily aided by the goal-scoring exploits of two of their foreigners, Australian striker Sean Rooney and English defender John Johnson. Rooney has netted 6 times in five separate games, while Johnson has managed to net the opening goal from corners in three matches.
Apart from them, club and country captain Sunil Chhetri, who too features in Bengaluru FC’s ranks, has netted twice, despite playing wide out on the left in attack often. With fellow Indian striker and target-man Robin Singh an option off the bench, the visitors do boast significant goal-scoring prowess that need to be kept in check.
Bengaluru FC’s midfield is powered by the experienced ex-Liberian international John Menyongar, supported by the likes of Siam Hanghal, Darren Caldeira, Thoi Singh and winger B. Beikhokhei.
However, with first choice goalkeeper Pawan Kumar and Kenyan defender Curtis Osano in doubt ahead of the clash, young custodian Bruno Colaco and ex-Pune FC defender N.S. Manju could keep their place after starting against Mumbai FC.
Hosts Pune FC has some positive team news ahead of the clash. Defender Calum Angus is back in training after limping off early in the game against Sporting Goa, while winger James Meyer too is back in the team after missing out the last two games.
Defender Srikanth Ramu returns after a long injury lay off and is joined by fellow defender Denechandra Meitei, winger Anthony D’Souza and goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly, who replaces the suspended Amrinder Singh, in the 20-member squad.
The encounter, though a first, has quite a few ex-Pune FC-turned-rivals. The rivals defence sports N.S Manju and left-back Lalrozama Fanai. In contrast, Pune FC have no rival teams players, but have a few players from Bangalore, which includes long-serving medio Shanmugam Venkatesh and right-back Srikanth.
Pune FC (4th, 13 pts): L-W-W-W-D
Bengaluru FC (2nd, 14 pts): D-L-W-W-W