THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Pune FC host defending champions Bengaluru FC in a crucial game

Pune FC

Pune FC

Pune FC will be looking to build on their recent away win when they host defending champions Bengaluru FC in an I-League Round 18 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi on Tuesday.

Pune FC’s fourth home game in the month of April will also be the second time they take field in four days after the game against Dempo SC on Saturday.

With the two teams separated by just one point in the league standings, the clash will be a crucial one for both, third placed Pune FC (23 pts) and fourth placed Bengaluru FC (22 pts). Moreover, with leaders Mohun Bagan (28 pts) dropping points in the previous weekend against second placed Royal Wahingdoh (26 pts), the game on the morrow carries added significance as a win for either side would strengthen their position in the standings.

The game will also be the third time both sides face in this season. While Bengaluru FC logged a 2-1 win in the Federation Cup group stage, Pune FC bounced back with a massive 3-1 win over the defending champions in the first-leg of the I-League.

Pune FC who come into the game on the back of a 2-1 away win over Dempo SC in Goa will be confident of their chances. Given the fact that Pune FC has been unbeaten in three I-League games against Bengaluru FC so far, will also give them extra motivation heading into this important clash.

Furthermore, Pune FC will also be hoping to match their result from the first leg where they beat the defending champions 3-1 in Bengaluru. However, this time the task will be an even tougher one with a host of Pune FC players missing from action due to injuries and suspensions.

To begin with midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh who was sent off for the second time this season will serve a one-game suspension and will be joined by striker Darko Nikac who too misses out after receiving four yellow cards.

Meanwhile, the likes of Raju Yumnam, Ishfaq Ahmed and Edgar Marcelino are still yet to recover completely from injuries forcing Pune FC coach Karim Bencherifa to shuffle his lineup.

Speaking on the sidelines of a training session at the Balewadi Stadium, coach Bencherifa said, “The win against Dempo SC was an important one for us. The boys gave their all in really tough conditions in Goa to get the win which gives us a confidence boost.”

“The home game against Bengaluru FC is a crucial one as a win can take us into a challenging position in the standings. They are a strong side and we are expecting a tough match tomorrow,” he added.

Bengaluru FC come into the game on the back of a 1-0 AFC Cup win over Warriors FC in Singapore which followed a couple of draws against Royal Wahingdoh and Mumbai FC at home in the I-League.

The Ashley Westwood-led side will be banking heavily on their attacking trio of Sean Rooney, Robin Singh and Sunil Chhetri to fire up front. Meanwhile, the likes of Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Thoi Singh and Joshua Walker are expected to pull the strings from the midfield.

The defensive duo of Curtis Osano and John Johnson will provide a challenge to the Pune FC frontline led by top-scorer Thongkhosiem Haokip.

Over the years both sides have faced off four times with Pune FC having the upper hand logging two wins compared to Bengaluru FC’s one. Moreover, in three I-League games, Pune FC have not only remained unbeaten but also sealed two wins.

The game kicks off at 19.00 IST on Tuesday and will be LIVE on Ten Action.