Pune FC will be keen to maintain their winning run when they come up against Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited in a final round Group B encounter of the King’s Cup at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan on Tuesday.
Going into the game as the first team to have sealed a semifinal spot on the back of three consecutive wins, Pune FC will hope to close out the group stage as winners with a hundred per cent record.
However, the clash against Abahani won’t be an easy one for Pune FC. Abahani, who are currently third in the table, desperately need a win to give them a chance of qualifying for the semifinals. Moreover, having to depend on other results to go their way, the Dhaka-based team will have to go all-out attack on Tuesday to keep their hopes alive.
“It’s a tough competition with good teams in both groups and we are happy to have qualified for the knockouts with a game in hand. We have become a very close unit and it’s difficult to break us down and for that, I am proud of the boys”, said coach Karim Bencherifa after a 45-minute training session at the Changlimithang Stadium on Monday.
Having already qualified for the semis, coach Bencherifa is expected to make quite a few changes in the starting lineup as Pune FC gear up to play their second game in three days.
He added, “Even though we have qualified, other teams too have a chance of qualification. We will be professional and approach the game like the previous ones and will try to win this game. There will be changes in the lineup but we will still put out a very good team to get the best possible result.”
On the team news front, Salam Ranjan Singh will miss out having taken a knock in the previous game. However, the Pune FC squad has been boosted by the additions of Matthew Gonsalves and Snehashis Chakraborty who will be available for selection on matchday.
On the other hand, Abahani come into the game hoping for the best as their hopes of qualification were dealt a severe blow after their 2-2 draw against fellow contenders MMC, Nepal.
The Bangladeshi side, who finished runners up in their national league in 2013-14, will depend heavily on the foreign trio of defender Samad Yussif, medio Ismael Bangoura and striker Henry Felix Ubom to shine on matchday alongside local players Pranotosh Das and Alam Shahed.
A win is what Abahani desparately need and they will have to give everything on matchday to have at least a mathematical chance of qualifying to the next round.
The game, which will be played late in the afternoon, kicks off at 15.00 local time (14.30 IST) on Tuesday.