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Pune FC hope to end I-League season on a high

Arata Izumi (Pune FC)

Arata Izumi (Pune FC)

Pune FC will look to end the 2014-15 season on a high when they take on Sporting Clube de Goa in an I-League Round 22 encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Saturday.

The final round clash will be a season defining one for both teams for distinct reasons. While fifth placed Pune FC (29 pts) go into the game with a chance of a top-three finish, hosts and eight placed Sporting Goa (20 pts) will be hoping to avoid relegation thus making the game a must win for either side.

However, with four matches being played simultaneously around the country, a lot of factors will come into play when the final standings will be decided and three points will be crucial at the end of the day.

For Pune FC, a positive result in their game in Goa and East Bengal Club (4th, 29 pts) dropping points against Shillong Lajong FC in Shillong will see them rise up to the third place in the standings, giving added motivation to the players.

Furthermore, having logged back-to-back away wins against East Bengal and Shillong Lajong in the previous two games, Pune FC will hope to carry forward the momentum

Speaking about the game, Pune FC Asst. Coach Gift Raikhan said, “This is an important game for us. Sporting is fighting relegation and we need a win to finish in a better position. It won’t be easy but the boys are well prepared and we hope for a good game to end the season on a high.”

However, Coach Raikhan has warned his team against any complacency and wants them to stay focussed on the task at hand. “We come into the game after back to back important away wins. But, we need to stay grounded and not lose focus against a strong Sporting side,” he added.

The game will be the third time both sides face off this season after meeting in the Durand Cup semifinals (Pune FC win; 2-1) and in the I-League (Draw; 1-1), and Pune FC will aim to build on their unbeaten run against the Goans.

On the team news front, Pune FC will be missing services of winger Edgar Marcelino and defender Zohmingliana Ralte due to injuries as youngsters Lalrempuia Fanai and Jessel Carneiro have been drafted in as replacements.

Meanwhile, Sporting Goa come into the game after a 0-2 loss to Mohun Bagan AC in Kolkata. The defeat followed a seven match unbeaten including four wins which helped them rise up from the bottom of the standings.

Going into the game, the Goan side will be heavily banking on the strike-duo of Odafa Okolie (5 goals) and Anthony Wolfe (4 goals) to fire up front. The pair has scored nine of Sporting’s eighteen goals in this campaign and will provide a challenge for the Pune FC defense led by Luciano Sabrosa.

Furthermore, the likes of Brandon Fernandes, Pratesh Shirodkar and Sandesh Jhingan will also form an important part of the side.

The last time both sides faced off in Goa, it was Pune FC who came out on top with a 2-1 win over Sporting in in the Durand Cup semifinals, something the team will look to replicate seven months later.

Over the years, both sides have faced off ten times in all competitions. Pune FC boasts a better head-to-head record having logged three wins compared to Sporting’s two. However, in four I-League clashes in Goa, Pune FC has logged only one win compared two Sporting’s two and thus will be keen to improve their record.

The game kicks off at 16.30 IST on Saturday and will be LIVE on Ten Cricket.