Pune FC will be eager to end their campaign on a high when they host Dempo SC in an I-League Round 26 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Monday.
The final game of the season will be a crucial one for seventh-placed Pune FC (29 pts) as a win against sixth-placed Dempo SC (32 pts) will see them move up one place and maintain the club’s history of finishing in the top half of the table.
Having dominated head-to-head against the five-time league champions in the past, Pune FC will look up to the prevailing record (6W – 2L – 3D) and hope to maintain it.
Going into the game on the back of a historic 2-0 win over Hong Kong champions Kitchee SC, also the club’s first-ever continental win, Pune FC will be confident and motivated for a similar performance against the Goans.
Furthermore, with influential players Douhou Pierre and Calum Angus back into the squad, Coach Mike Snoei expects his side to put on a show.
Speaking after a pre-match session, Coach Snoei explained, “It is a do or die battle for us as we push to finish in the top half of the league table and maintain the club legacy.”
“The result (2-0 win against Kitchee) was a confidence-booster, but we need to follow up the historic feat with a similar result. This is something I’ve constantly been reminding the players all week long,” added the Dutchman.
Visitors Dempo SC come into the game on the back of a 2-4 home loss to champions Bengaluru FC in the last week and a 1-1 draw against Mumbai FC early in April. On the other hand, Pune FC who were involved in a hectic schedule will be playing their seventh game in April.
Since the league resumed in February, Dempo SC have played a total of nine games out of which eight were at home. Moreover, the only ‘away’ game they played was against Churchill Brothers in Goa making the clash against Pune FC their first real away game in three months, something the hosts will hope to capitalise on.
With Roberto Mendes da Silva ‘Beto’ missing out, Dempo SC will be banking heavily on January recruit Tolgay Ozbey. The Australian striker has been in great form since switching loyalties from Mohammedan SC to Dempo and has netted eight times in seven league games.
Dempo’s backline will be marshalled by Australian Simon Colosimo and Afghan international Haroon Amiri, posing a massive challenge for the Pune FC strike-force led by Mirjan Pavlovic and Riga Mustapha.
Over the years, both sides have faced each other eleven times with Pune FC boasting six wins against Dempo’s two. Additionally, in four games at the Balewadi Stadium, Pune FC have logged two wins compared to Dempo’s single win two years back.
The match kicks off at 18.30 IST on Monday.