Pune FC is in for a huge challenge as they ready to kick start their campaign against defending champions Manang Marshyangdi Club, Nepal in the King’s Cup at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan on Sunday.
The game will be the fourth time Pune FC play abroad after playing three away games in the 2014 AFC Cup and will hope to log their first-ever overseas win.
The match, incidentally, the Group B opener is the third match scheduled for the day and with the mercury dropping down, the cold climate in Thimphu will play a major role in the proceedings.
Taking that into account, Pune FC, who come to Bhutan having spent three weeks in hot and humid conditions of Goa, will need to adapt to the cold conditions quickly. Moreover, the game which will be played on a high altitude, against an MMC side which hails from the region, won’t be an easy one and coach Karim Bencherifa wants the players to be ready for the challenge.
“We come here after spending three weeks in Goa and we’ve got to adjust quickly with the cold weather. It will be a tough game against defending champions MMC, but we are out to do well and try to make it count,” said Coach Bencherfia after a session on the eve of the clash.
Pune FC will be confident after an impressive run in the recently concluded Durand Cup, and will hope for a similar performance in their first-ever international overseas competition.
Going into the game, Pune FC is boosted by the return of skipper Anas Edathodika. The no-nonsense defender missed out on the Durand Cup exploits while recovering from a minor injury and will be raring to go.
Anas will be joined by wingers Velington Rocha and Niikhil Kadam along with goalkeeper Avilash Paul giving coach Bencherifa good options ahead of the big clash. Likewise, the striker Thongkhosiem Haokip who had suffered a minor injury in Goa is also back training.
On the other hand, MMC, the reigning Nepal A-League champions, come into the game having finished as runners up in the Governor’s Gold Cup, Sikkim after going down ONGC in a penalty shootout in the final. However, a win over United Sikkim FC in the earlier stages will give them confidence going into the game.
The Nabin Neupane-coached side will bank on Nepalese international and star player Anil Gurung to fire up front. The 26-year old striker will carry the experience of having played in the I-League for north east club Shillong Lajong in the 2009-10 season.
Moreover, MMC who began preparations for the competition a week back, have received a boost after national team skipper Sagar Thapa too joined the squad after initially being reported to miss out. He will be joined by Ranjit Dhimal who made his national debut recently and will form the core of the team along with the foreigners.
With second choice custodian Birendra Chand not travelling with the squad, MMC have drafted in Binod Dangal of Army Club to bolster their bench strength.
The game which will be played under floodlights will kick off at 19.00 local time (18.30 IST) on Sunday.