Football fans in Pune will be treated to high quality action as Bharat FC and Pune FC renew their rivalry as the Lions host the Red Lizards in the Pune Derby on Sunday night. The Hero I-League Round 11 (rescheduled) fixture will be played at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi and will kick-off at 19.00 IST. The match will be telecast live on Ten Action.
The first ever Pune derby played on the fourth of April saw both teams end all square after a thrilling 90 minutes. Fanai Lalrempuia’s third minute goal was cancelled out by a 30th minute equalizer from Kris Bright during the first ever derby. Pune FC are currently fifth in the Hero I-League standings with 23 points from 16 games. Bharat FC are in 10th place with 15 points from 16 games. Pune FC went down 0-2 against Mohun Bagan AC in their last I-League fixture while Bharat FC carved out a 1-0 victory against the same opposition, last Tuesday.
Pune FC’s Assistant Coach Gift Raikhan said that he did not really see an advantage in playing home or away. “This is professional football and we have to perform well wherever we play. We respect our opponents Bharat FC. They are a good side and also have a good coach. We have analyzed them and have worked accordingly. We do not want to rush things and we are taking it one game at a time. I am confident of my squad’s ability even though we are missing a few players through injury and suspension,” he said.
Bharat FC’s head coach Stuart Watkiss said that he was buoyed by the performance his side put up against Mohun Bagan AC but sounded a note of caution, asking his side to guard against complacency. “We had a great result on Tuesday but we cannot afford to sit back and take things easy. There is no room for a slip-up. I am confident that my side has the quality to get three points if we play to our maximum on Sunday. However, if we do not do that, then Pune FC are very capable of hurting us,” he said.
New Zealand international striker, Kris Bright, is still recovering from a hamstring injury that has seen him sit out the last three games. Gouramangi Singh and Arindam Bhattacharya also picked up niggles in the last match and will undergo fitness tests on Sunday morning.
Pune FC midfielder Arata Izumi was excited ahead of his first Pune Derby, having missed the first one due to suspension. Arata said, “The Pune Derby is a very important game. Having spent six years in Pune, it was my desire to play in a local derby if there was another team in the city. It will be great if we have passionate support from both sets of fans and make this derby day special.”
Bharat FC’s Bobby Hassell said that though the derby was a very special match for every player, it was important to keep a calm head and not let the occasion overpower you. “Yes a derby is a game full of emotions and quality. Everyone wants to do well, the fans want their side to win, the atmosphere is charged. In all this you have to ensure that you do not lose sight of your goal. Everyone needs to do their jobs tomorrow. We are here for three points and it is imperative that we focus on that,” he said.