Pune FC will seek a favourable result as they look to build on their impressive home record when they host Dempo SC in an I-League Round 6 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi on Saturday.
The clash will be an important one for league leaders Pune FC (10 pts) who will look to get a positive result after a narrow 0-1 away loss to Mohun Bagan in the previous round. The result not only ended their 4-match unbeaten run but also allowed other teams in the table to close in the standings and Pune FC will be keen to bounce back to winning ways.
Moreover, with three back-to-back home games line up in this month, the game against Dempo will have added importance as Pune FC hope to make the most of the home advantage.
Going into the game, Pune FC will be confident with the past record between the two sides favouring them. For the record, Pune FC has logged six wins compared to Dempo’s three in twelve encounters so far.
Nonetheless, the clash against the five-times former champions will not be an easy one given the fact that they are one of only two teams who are still unbeaten in the current league campaign and Pune FC Coach Karim Bencherifa echoes the same sentiment.
“Dempo SC are a strong side. The have recruited top young Indian talent and the experienced foreigners in their lineup make them even stronger. The game on Saturday will be a tough one and we need to be at our best,” said Coach Bencherifa on the sidelines of a training session at the Pune FC training Pitches in Mamurdi.
Despite boasting the best attack in the league (12 goals), the Pune FC frontline led by Thongkhosiem Haokip, Darko Nikac and Ryuji Sueoka will have their task cut out as they come up against the Dempo defense marshalled by Haroon Amiri and Nirmal Chhetri which has just conceded one goal in four matches.
Nonetheless the team will be confident of their chances given the fact that they have netted eight goals in the two homes games so far.
On the team news front, Coach Karim Bencherifa does have majority of the squad at his disposal with no major injury worries although a few changes to the matchday squad are expected.
Speaking about the team, he added, “We had a tough game against Mohun Bagan in the last round. However, the players have moved on and are prepared for the new challenge. We have worked hard during the week and are excited to play at our home once again.”
On the other hand, Dempo come into the game after a 1-1 draw against Royal Wahingdoh in Shillong. The draw followed a 3-0 win over Sporting Goa at home after playing goalless draws in their opening two games.
Despite being unbeaten in the league so far, Dempo have only scored 4 goals and will be banking on the attacking trio of Tolgay Ozbey, Carlos Hernandes and Alwyn George to fire up front.
Joining them will be the likes of Francis Fernandes, Germanpreet Singh and Clifford Miranda who will provide options in the attack as midfielder Lenny Rodrigues is expected to pull strings from the midfield.
While Pune FC have the better overall record against Dempo, the head-2-head tally at the Balewadi Stadium is evenly matched with both teams sharing two wins each in the last five seasons. With Dempo winning the last game between the two sides at Balewadi 3-0, Pune FC will be eager to grab a win to set the record straight.
The match kicks off at 19.00 IST on Saturday.