Pune FC is eager to add a winning chapter to their current form when they host United SC in an I-League Round 12 encounter at Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi in Pune.
Back in familiar surrounds, Pune FC over the past two rounds locked out with back-to-back away draws (v/s Salgaocar FC and Dempo SC) in tough conditions. The results have made an effect on Pune FC’s standings after working hard to line up a chance to steer into clear leadership.
Pune FC Coach, Mike Snoei, said: “Sometimes you need to be content with one point and look forward to play better than the last game.”
The home game on the morrow, thus, turns out to be important, purely with an eye on independent leadership. Currently Pune FC (18 points) shares a three-way tie, along with Salgaocar FC and Bengaluru FC, for the top-spot. However, by virtue of goal difference Pune FC drops down to third rank on the League table.
Having missed out on top-spot opportunity twice, Pune FC with consecutive home games in the schedule will want to make the most of the home support and provide reason enough to cheer.
The fact that Pune FC has won all four home games this season while keeping clean sheets, is enough motivation for them to look ahead to when up against their Kolkata rivals. Moreover, Pune FC have never lost to the visitors in an I-League home encounter over four seasons having logged three wins and a draw.
Adds Coach, “Our ambition is to win, play well and continue to push ourselves. I am looking forward to the game. The game will be also against my country man (Eelco Schattorie).”
With a combination of results giving both teams, including fourth placed United SC (16 points), a chance to top the table, as the top-4 are separated with only two points, makes this weekend fixture crucial.
The visitors come into the game after a good run of results. Two wins and a draw helped them secure 7 points from the last three games compared to Pune FC who earned 5 points (1W-2D-0L).
United SC, however, started the season suffering financial problems. But, the Kolkata side has soldiered on to a respectable place in the league, in-spite of only commencing pre-season in September.
Despite many high-profile players departing over the summer, United SC have managed to retain a few top players while adding another few.
At the heart of the visitor’s team is their foreign quartet. Upfront, a total of nine goals have been contributed by Nigerian Ranti Martins (4) and Liberian Eric Brown (5). The duo will definitely keep the Pune FC defense on their toes.
At the back, Nigerian Bello Rasaq and new signing, Syrian Hasan Moustafa have been marshalling the defense.
Many of their key Indian players continue to provide the consistency in their playing style that Coach Schattorie has established with the likes of the hugely experienced defender and captain Deepak Mandal, with fellow defenders Dhanachandra Singh and Anupam Sarkar forming the team’s rearguard.
The opponents will be missing the services of experienced custodian Sangram Mukherjee and will possibly have young Ishan Debnath starting in the goal.
With playmaker and long-serving Lalkamal Bhowmick too missing, the likes of Souvik Chakrabarti, K Asif, Snehasis Chakraborty and ex-Pune FC midfielder Baldeep Singh are expected to fill in.
Up-front, the pacy attacker C.K. Vineeth has been complimenting Ranti, while the talented Mohammed Rafique offers another option.
On the Pune FC team news front, defender Denechandra Meitei and medio Dhanpal Ganesh have been added to the eighteen member squad in place of Othallo Tabia and Srikanth Ramu.
Overall both teams have faced each other 14 times in all competitions, with United SC winning six games. On the other hand, Pune FC has logged four wins with three of them coming at Balewadi.
For Pune FC, midfielders Arata Izumi (3 goals), Shanmugam Venkatesh (1), Douhou Pierre (1) and defender Othallo Tabia (1) have all scored in the past against the visitors. On the other hand, for United SC, Vineeth and Ranti have each netted once against Pune FC.