Pune FC will be aiming for their first win in the I-League when they face defending champions Bengaluru FC in a Round 2 encounter at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday.
With both sides playing out draws in their opening games, the clash on the morrow will be a crucial one for either side as a win will help them in making the move up the table.
The game will also be the second competitive clash between the two sides this season having already faced once in the Federation Cup group stage three weeks ago. Back then, it was Pune FC who went down 1-2 and will be itching to set the record straight.
Speaking after a training session at the Kanteerava Stadium on Friday, Pune FC Head Coach Karim Bencherifa said, “It’s always nice to face Bengaluru FC. Every time we have faced them this season, it has been a tough game. We definitely deserved more in our 1-2 defeat to Bengaluru FC in the Federation Cup. We are looking forward to this game at their home ground,”
Pune FC come into the game after putting on a dominant performance in a 1-1 draw against Salgaocar FC last week. Despite dropping two points against the Goans, Pune FC will be optimistic and aspire for a positive result against the defending champions as they enter a hectic schedule playing three matches in the next nine days.
Having arrived in the garden city on Wednesday, Pune FC have completed a couple of training sessions and will be raring to go on matchday. “The most important thing is to get back to Pune with a positive result and three points and that’s what our target is,” added Coach Bencherifa.
On the team news front, the eighteen-man travelling squad consists of all players who were part of the first game against Salgaocar while key players in Anas Edathodika, Prakash Thorat, Lalrempuia Fanai and Bineesh Balan are still out due to injuries.
Pune FC, however, has been boosted by the arrival of Portuguese creative midfielder Edgar Marcelino who landed in Bengaluru on Thursday and has completed two training sessions with the team.
Edgar’s arrival thus completes Pune FC’s overseas line up giving Coach Bencherifa valuable options ahead of the game. Furthermore, having settled in, another new signing Darko Nikac will be in line for his first start after a brief cameo against Salgaocar FC last week.
Bengaluru FC who come into the game after a goalless draw against Dempo SC on the opening day, go into the game with almost a full strength side. The hosts will depend heavily on the foreign trio of defenders John Johnson and Curtis Osano along with striker Sean Rooney. Meanwhile, Joshua Walker who missed out on the previous game against Dempo, might start on the morrow.
Up front, Bengaluru FC’s skipper Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh will provide a challenge to the Pune FC backline marshalled by experienced defender Luciano Sabrosa.
Having faced off three times so far, Pune FC and Bengaluru FC share an equal head-to-head record with a win each. However, Pune FC has the upper hand in their clashes in I-League with a win and a draw in two games and will be keen to maintain their unbeaten record.
The game kicks off at 19.00 IST under floodlights and will be LIVE on Ten Action.