Pune FC will be eager to make history when they face Salgaocar FC in the big final of the 127th Durand Cup at the Raia Sports Complex in Goa on Saturday.
Playing in their first-ever Durand Cup final, Pune FC would like to make most of the opportunity to clinch the oldest trophy in Asian football. Moreover, having secured three consecutive wins in the tournament, Pune FC will be high on morale and keen to stretch that run.
Interestingly, Salgaocar will be Pune FC’s fourth Goan opponent in this edition of the competition after Churchill Bros, Vasco SC and Sporting Goa and the two time former champions will be a tough nut to crack.
While the big clash brings two experienced coaches face-to-face against each other, their history also adds a unique flavour to the clash. Interestingly, both coaches – Karim Bencherifa (Pune FC) and Derrick Pereira (Salgaocar FC) – have been in charge of their current opponents where they have enjoyed a long and successful stint.
Ahead of their third game in five days, Pune FC had a light training session in Benaulim. Speaking on the sidelines, Coach Bencherifa said, “We worked very hard in the preseason and that is paying off now. Despite having just one day between games at this stage, the players are coping with that very well.”
He further added, “I feel that Pune FC is a team that deserves to have a trophy. It won’t be easy but if we can win the Durand Cup, it will set us on a right path as a club.”
Despite having six players a booking away from missing the finals, the Pune FC side kept their composure in the semis, dealt with the situation confidently and avoided suspensions giving a big boost to the squad.
On the team news front, defender Raju Yumnam returns after serving a one game suspension, but Pune FC do have a few minor niggles to deal with and the final squad will only be decided on matchday.
Salgaocar come into the final after overcoming Bengaluru FC in a penalty shootout in the semifinals and will carry the advantage of being the home side.
The Goan side will also be banking on the attacking duo of Ivorian Douhou Pierre and Scottish Darryl Duffy who will provide a challenge for the Pune FC back line.
Furthermore, a lot of ex-players will also face Pune FC for the first time since switching sides this summer. Prominent names include defender Othallo Tabia, Gurjinder Kumar and playmaker Douhou Pierre and Salgaocar will be banking on them to shine.
On the other hand, ex-Salgaocar players Luciano Sabrosa and Ryuji Sueoka will also face the former side for the first time as Pune FC players.
Despite having faced each other several times in the I-League and Federation Cup over the years, this will be the first time both sides square off in the Durand Cup.
The match kicks off at 15.00 IST on Saturday and will be telecast LIVE on DD Sports.