THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Pune FC hope to make dominant home form count against Shillong Lajong

Pune FC

Pune FC

Pune FC will hope to make the most of their dominant form at home when they host Shillong Lajong FC in an I-League Round 20 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Saturday.

The game is crucial for second-placed Pune FC (29 pts) who will be heading into a tough four-match away sequence in two different competitions. A win against Lajong will not only help the team ahead of their back-to-back away games in the AFC Cup, but also give a push to their domestic league campaign which enters its final stages.

Moreover, a winless run against the north-east side at home is something Pune FC will be keen to end. Both teams have met thrice in Pune in the top-flight and played out a draw each time.

Back in 2009-10, the Lajong team coached by Stanley Rozario held Pune FC to a 1-1 draw, while the league opener in 2011-12 against the Pradhyum Reddy coached Lajong ended goalless. In the 2012-13 season, Thangboi Singto-led Lajong side held Pune FC to a 2-2 draw.

Currently playing their third consecutive away match after the midseason break, Lajong have failed to log a league-win in 2014 and go into the match after a 1-3 loss to Salgaocar FC in Goa. However, the visitors have been consistent throughout the campaign occupy fifth place in the league table with 24 points.

With preparations for the big game on the back of their mind, Lajong arrived in Pune with a full strength squad four days before the game have been acclimatising to the conditions.

The Thangboi Singto-led side will rely heavily on the attacking-duo of Trinidad and Tobago World-Cupper Cornell Glenn (8 goals) and the Brazillian Uilliams Souza (4 goals). Between them, the strike-pair has contributed 12 goals out of Lajong’s 23 in the league and will pose a challenge for the Pune FC defense led by Calum Angus.

Assisting them from the midfield is Boithang Haokip who has chipped in with four important goals.

The visitors’ other two overseas players include Japanese medio Taisuke Matsugae and skipper North Korean defender Minchol Son who form the central line along with the strikers up front.

Backed by experienced Indian players like Wailadmi Passah, Robin Gurung, Lalramluaha Hmar, Durga Boro and Seikhohao Tuboi, Lajong will pose a challenge to the hosts.

Speaking on the sidelines of a training session at the Balewadi Stadium, Pune FC Coach Mike Snoei said, “The result (in the last match against Mumbai FC) was not as we expected. The draw prevented us from closing in on the leaders.”

Talking about rivals Lajong, he further added, “Lajong have a good set of foreigners and Indian players and are placed behind us on the league table. They are a good team and it will not be easy for us.”

On the team news front, new signing Mirjan Pavlovic will be in line to make his first start. The Australian striker has been training with the team for the past week and will be raring to go after his cameo against Mumbai FC last week.

Over the years both sides have met ten times and Lajong have the upper hand with three wins compared to Pune FC’s one. Moreover with all three meetings in Pune ending in draws, a win will be of utmost importance for Pune FC as they hope to improve their record against the north-easterners.