Pune FC hosts Vietnamese-champions Hanoi T&T FC in a historic AFC Champions League game at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, Pune on Wednesday.
The Round-1 Play-Off clash will be the first time ever that India will host any AFC Champions League match and also the first time ever either teams plays in the competition.
With both nations getting the play-off berth after a two-year hiatus, the game is a must win for either side as progression to the second round qualifying beckons.
Coached by Phan Thanh Hung, Hanoi ply their trade in the V-League (Vietnam top-flight). They have played four games in the recently started season (three in the league) and currently sit third in the league table with two wins and a loss.
Speaking at the pre-match Press Conference held at the venue of tomorrow’s match, Hung said: “This is our first game in the AFC Champions League and we have prepared very hard for it. We have a lot of respect for the home team, but we want to try and win this game.”
Updating on the status of Argentine striker Gonzalo Damian Marronkle, he said “Gonzalo has a small injury. We don’t want to risk anything. We will see in today’s training session and only make a decision tomorrow.”
The south-east Asian side, established in 2006, was promoted into the top-flight in 2009. Since then, they have won the league twice (2010, 2013) and finished runners up twice (2011, 2012).
Hanoi does carry forward continental experience having played the AFC Cup in 2011. Back then, Hanoi were undefeated at home but were knocked out in the group stage.
Talking about the home side Pune FC, Coach Hung elaborated, “They have a good mix of foreign and local players guided by a good coach. But our players are ready and we will try to do our best to get a good result on Wednesday.”
The hosts Pune FC, however, are midway through the season and like their counterparts are also third in the I-League standings (7W-3D-4L after Round-16). Having returned from the recently concluded Federation Cup in Kochi, the team will be raring to go in their first ever appearance on the continental stage.
Pune FC Coach Mike Snoei was happy ahead of the game and explained, “It’s an historic moment for the club. In seven years since establishing, Pune FC has come very far making progress on and off the field. Now it is the responsibility of the players to give their all on the biggest stage. ”
After playing in a totally different climate in Kerala (referring to Federation Cup), Snoei was pleased to be back playing at home. He said: “The game won’t be easy, but we have beaten big teams like Bengaluru FC, Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan here(in Pune), and we will to take positives from it.”
Speaking on the current form of the team, he further added, “You can’t always be at your best, but now we have to be ready for this big ocassion. I have told my players that the game can go beyond 90 minutes, may be even penalties. ”
He added, “Hanoi are the champions of Vietnam and do have a very good team. We need to be cautious and senior players like Douhou Pierre and Calum Angus need to step up. Riga Mustapha needs to prove himself now and bring in the experience of playing at the highest level. We need to score goals as this is just a one leg tie.”
With home conditions in favour for Pune FC, Coach Mike Snoei will expect a good performance from the 25-member team on hand for selection.
The match kicks off at 18.30 PM IST on Wednesday.