Pune FC will be up against Kolkata’s Mohun Bagan AC as they fight for a place in the final of the King’s Cup at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan on Sunday.
With a place in the showpiece final of the biggest sporting event in Bhutan up for grabs, it will be an exciting affair between two sides coming into the game on the back of contrasting runs.
Pune FC, who come into the game on the back of four consecutive wins, will be confident of their chances, but at the same time, will need to be wary of an unpredictable Mohun Bagan side.
Moreover, with current Pune FC Coach Karim Bencherifa facing his former team led by Subhash Bhowmick for the first time since switching sides over the summer, it promises to be an interesting clash between two experienced coaches in Indian football.
“It was a good journey up till now. We earned the maximum points in the group and there are a lot of positives about the team. We have played a lot of games since the start of the season, and have shown a lot of consistency and maturity,” said Coach Bencherifa after a training session at the Changlimithang Stadium on Saturday.
Pune FC, who will be playing in their second semifinal of the season, would want to maintain their positive run so far in the competition to advance to their only second-ever final.
“It’s our second semifinal in the second competition of the season and it speaks volumes about the way we are working. But it’s a long way to go. In a tournament like this you have to win every game you play to win the title. We face a strong Mohun Bagan in the semis and have to win to qualify for the final,” added Coach Bencherifa.
Going into the game, Pune FC will be fresh after a four day break which followed their last group game. Having planned sessions accordingly, Pune FC will carry forward the enthusiasm of being the only team to qualify for the knockout stage with a hundred per cent record in the group phase.
Moreover, with seven different players to have found the net till now, it gives Coach Bencherifa plenty of options up front. Attackers Thongkhosiem Haokip, Prakash Thorat, Eric Brown, Ryuji Sueoka and Shoaib Syed will all fight for a starting place on matchday.
On the team news front, a few players will have minor niggles to deal with. But other than that, Coach Bencherifa will have a fully fit squad available for selection on matchday.
Going into the game, Bagan will be hoping to bounce back to winning ways, after going down 3-5 to Bangladesh’s Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi club in their final group game.
For Mohun Bagan, who began their 2014-15 season with the Calcutta Football League, the King’s Cup is the second competition of the season and they have had a bouncy ride so far in the group stages with a draw, a win and a loss in their three games.
Bagan will be relying heavily on the foreign quartet of defender Alex Silveira, playmaker Katsumi Yusa along with attackers Pierre Boya and Sony Norde. In the absence of a few Indian players who are plying their trade in the ISL, Bagan coach Bhowmick expects his foreigners to continue to lead having already scored eight of their nine goals in three games.
Moreover, striker Pierre Boya, who has struck four times, will provide a challenge to the Pune FC defense lead by skipper Anas Edathodika and Luciano Sabrosa.
Interestingly, this will be the thirteenth time both sides face off since 2009. However, it will be the first time ever both teams meet in a competition outside the I-League and the IFA Shield.
The game, which will be played late in the afternoon kicks off at 16.00 PM local time (15.30 IST) on Sunday.