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Pune FC face United SC in crucial encounter

Pune FC

Pune FC

Pune FC faces United SC in a must-win Round 2 clash of the 35th Federation Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday.

The Group A game is important for both teams as they attempt to catch up with group-leaders Churchill Brothers SC after heartbreak results in the opening round.

The square off is the second-ever in the Federation Cup after the 1-1 group stage draw in the previous edition at Jamshedpur. Moreover, this is the third clash in less than two months.

United SC goes into the game after an opening round loss and an unsatisfactory two-month period, something Pune FC hope to exploit. Add being low on morale owing to financial problems, the Kolkata side have struggled to log a top-flight win in nine games since last the week of November.

Apart from poor results, injuries have hit United SC hard in the recent past forcing them to miss services of key players.

With a new goalkeeper in Jayanta Paul and the team missing services of talismanic defender Bello Rasaq, problems were evident as United conceded two goals on counter attacks against Churchill.

The Pune FC-attack led by Riga Mustapha, Douhou Pierre and James Meyer will be looking to exploit these weak links in opponent’s defense.

Nonetheless, the Eelco Schattorie-led side will be heavily relying on the attacking trio of Ranti Martins, C.K. Vineeth and Eric Brown to provide goals upfront while the duo of Souvik Chakrabarti and either Md Rafique or Asif K. will look to drive the team forward from the midfield.

United SC, however, will miss the services of medio Lalkamal Bhowmick, an Income-Tax employee, who flew back for his side’s All India Departments Football Championship clash against Central Excise after the game against Churchill Brothers.

Pune FC themselves have been struggling; one win in the last seven matches will be a stat Coach Mike Snoei will want to correct. However if there was some motivation to be drawn then without doubt it would be the win against United SC at Kalyani in mid-December that Pune FC will look to repeat.

Coach Mike Snoei says: “We’ve played them twice this year and done well (a draw and a win). Yes we are confident going into this game as well.”

Having drawn their opener against Eagles FC (1-1), Pune FC will hope to turn around their fortunes and push for a semi-final berth.

Snoei observed: “It was not a good opening match. Yes we did not have our best game. After the break in season we were rusty. The second half we played well and scored.”

“Everybody expected us to win against the Second Division side (Eagles SC), but let me tell you they had experienced players. In EPL and Leagues abroad top-sides find lower division sides tough.”

With no injuries to deal with, Coach Mike Snoei will have the full 20-member squad up for selection.

Over the years, both sides have met sixteen times with United SC boasting six wins compared to Pune FC’s five. But, Pune FC had the leverage when both teams met twice in December logging a win and a draw.

However on the morrow, Pune FC will not just be looking to match the head-to-head but also will be hoping to notch their first-ever win over United SC at a neutral location.