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Pune FC eager to keep qualification hopes alive against Nay Pyi Taw

Pune FC

Pune FC

Pune FC will be eager to keep their hopes of qualification to the AFC Cup knockout stage alive when they face Myanmar-side Nay Pyi Taw FC in a crucial Group H Round 5 encounter at the Paung Luang Stadium, in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday.

Going into the game on the back of two consecutive losses at home in different competitions, Pune FC will be keen to shrug off their disappointing run and will seek their first ever win on the continental stage.

Moreover, with qualification hopes now hanging by a thread, Pune FC (4th, 2 pts) will hope to bounce back to winning ways after losing back-to-back games against Singapore’s Tampines Rovers at the turn over point of the group stage.

On the other hand, Nay Pyi Taw (3rd, 4 pts) too comes into the game on the back of a disappointing run in the competition. After drawing their opening game 2-2 in Pune, Nay Pyi Taw beat Tampines in Myanmar before losing back-to-back games against group leaders Kitchee SC at home and away.

Thus the clash on the morrow will be an equally crucial one for both sides to keep their aspirations of a second place finish alive.

Nay Pyi Taw are currently sitting top of the Myanmar National League with six wins in nine games and will hope to bring that form onto the continental stage.

The hosts will be heavily banking on Italian striker Michele Di Piedi (6 goals) and attacker Aung Kyaw Naing (4 goals) to get the goals upfront. However, they will be missing services of Korean playmaker Jung Yoon-Sik, their top-scorer in the AFC Cup with two goals.

After a long three stop journey, Pune FC arrived in Nay Pyi Taw on Sunday and had only one training session prior to the game at the Paung Luang Stadium on Monday.

Speaking at the pre-match Press Conference, Pune FC Coach Mike Snoei said, “It’s nice to be here, we call it Burma. We cannot prepare (for this game). This is a different location, and we had a very long trip from airport (to reach Nay Pyi Taw). Overall it was a 22-hour journey.”

Snoei further added, “So instead of training yesterday after arrival, I gave my team an off. They were completely dead, very tired. We also played a game three days ago; so to recover they really needed the rest. So we train today (referring to the session at 4pm), this is something (training once) we are doing for the first time.”

Responding to a question on the hectic schedule of I-League and the AFC Cup, Snoei said, “Your (Myanmar’s) federation is very smart. They postponed their competition game to give your team (NPT) rest. It is very smart of them and (this) is done in Europe as well. But for us, we have to play, travel and then play again in a quick period.”

Skipper Douhou Pierre was positive ahead of the game and said, “We have a chance but we need to do well in our two games including the one at home for that. The possibility of qualification is not over, but then that will all depend on other results as well.”

On the Pune FC team news front defender Nicolau Borges has been drafted into the 18-man squad as medio Dhanpal Ganesh misses out.

Having played out a 2-2 draw with Nay Pyi Taw in the AFC Cup opener at home, Pune FC will be hoping to reverse fortunes and get all three points on the morrow.

The match kicks off at 16.00 Myanmar Time (15.00 IST / 11.30 CET / 10.30 GMT) on Tuesday.