Pune FC will be up against an in-form Sporting Clube de Goa side as they battle out for a place in the showpiece final of the 127th Durand Cup at the Raia Sports Complex, in Goa on Thursday.
Both teams come into the big semifinal clash on the back of consecutive wins and will battle hard to qualify for the big final.
Interestingly, the game is Pune FC’s third against a Goan opponent in the competition this year. Moreover, this is not only the first time that Pune FC face Sporting in the Durand Cup, but also the first time ever that both sides face off in a competition outside the I-League.
Having qualified for the semifinals after three years with their best ever group stage performance, Pune FC will hope to go one better this time and make it into the final two.
“We have a few minor injuries and yellow cards to deal with. But we believe in our abilities, and I think we have enough in our team to go all the way”, said Coach Karim Bencherifa after a light training session ahead of the match against Sporting.
Sporting, who had a long rest after the last game, come into the semis on the back of two solid performances and will be banking on heavily on ex-Pune FC striker Boima Karpeh (3 goals) and his partner in attack Anthony Wolfe (2 goals).
The duo has contributed five out of Sporting’s seven goals in two group games and will provide a challenge for the Pune FC defense led by Luciano Sabrosa and Salam Ranjan Singh.
However, Pune FC will be confident going into the game being the only side to not concede a goal in the group stage with two clean sheets, and would like to maintain the record.
On the team news front, keeper Amrinder Singh returns from suspension, but left-back Raju Yumnam will miss out having received two yellow cards in the group-stage.
Furthermore, the game will be the first time defender and ex-Sporting captain Matthew Gonsalves faces his old side since joining Pune FC earlier this season.
The match kicks off at 15.00 IST on Thursday.