Pune FC return to action in the I-League aiming to clinch a Maha-Derby-double when they face arch rivals Mumbai FC in a Round 12 encounter at The Cooperage Ground in Mumbai on Sunday.
Taking into account the intensity from all past encounters between second placed Pune FC (15 points) and sixth placed Mumbai FC (11 points), the game on the morrow definitely promises to be a thriller.
Moreover, while Pune FC look for a double over the home side after winning the first leg 3-2, Mumbai FC too will be keen to log their first ever derby win at The Cooperage making it a must win game for either side.
Going into the game, Pune FC will be confident after a 1-0 win over Royal Wahingdoh FC in the previous round before the international break and will be hoping to build on their three match unbeaten run.
Furthermore, with the Maha-Derby being played in Mumbai for the first time in five years, Pune FC can take motivation from the fact that the last time they played their arch rivals at The Cooperage, they emerged 2-1 winners in April 2010.
Nonetheless, Pune FC will be acclimatised to the conditions given the fact that they had a week-long camp in Mumbai during the recent break and also one during the preseason.
“I have had a few really good games at The Cooperage in the past. The stadium now is better with a good playing surface and the crowd even closer. It will be an exciting Maha-Debrby and I am looking forward to it,” said Pune FC coach Karim Bencherifa after an evening training session at the Cooperage Ground.
On the team news front, Pune FC will be missing a host of players. While first choice keeper Amrinder Singh, midfielder Nikhil Kadam and striker Thongkhosiem Haokip are at the Under-23 National Camp in Goa, winger Anthony D’Souza misses out after suffering an ankle injury on senior national duty and will be joined on the sidelines by playmaker Ryuji Sueoka.
However, Pune FC have been boosted by the return of midifielder Edgar Marcelino and striker Darko Nikač. The duo missed out on the last few games due to injuries and will bolster the Pune FC attack ahead of the Maha-Derby.
While Darko will lead the frontline in the absence of top-scorer Haokip, keeper Arup Debnath will be in line to make his first appearance of the season.
On the other hand, Mumbai FC come into the game on the back of a four-match unbeaten run. Furthermore, the hosts will be banking on their unbeaten home record this season having won and drawn two games each in four games at The Cooperage.
Speaking about the hosts, Bencherifa further added, “Mumbai FC plays with a style as per their strength and they really get the best out of it. That’s why it is not an easy team to play against.”
The overseas duo of midfielder Taisuke Matsugae and defender Chika Wali will form the nucleus of the team. The likes of Ashutosh Mehta, Mohammed Rafi and Abhishek Yadav and Justin Stephen will add experience to the team. Brazilian striker Josimar Martins will be serving a one game suspension for receiving four yellow cards.
Over the years, both sides have faced off twelve times in all competitions with Pune FC leading the head-to-head record with five wins compared to Mumbai FC’s three. Moreover, Pune FC also lead the record in Mumbai FC home games with two wins compared to one and will be keen to improve the record even further.
The game kicks off at 19.00 IST on Sunday and will be LIVE on Ten Action.