Pune, Dec 8 (IBNS) Pune FC will look forward to extend their stranglehold over Salgaocar FC in the I-League on a happy hunting ground at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, on Sunday.
Having maintained a perfect all-win record - 3 wins from as many visits – over the hosts, Pune FC will also hope to take heart from the win over Sporting Club Goa the last time around.
With the Goans currently going though an agonizing transition process, the Round-10 game on the morrow also gives Pune FC a chance to complete a hat-trick of away wins. Likewise, Pune FC seeks revenge for the Fed Cup that quashed hopes of a last-4 berth.
Pune FC Coach Derrick Pereira explains, “Salgaocar, as I see, is going through a lot of changes presently. and begins with their coach. Their midfield is good as always and defense is robust.”
Salgaocar, this season, had Karim Bencherifa resign soon after not picking up a win in their first two league games. Since then, the hosts picked up 4 pts from the two games under Assistant Coach Peter Vales, but have so far managed a solitary point ever since Englishman David Booth took charge.
While the changes has had telling effects in Salgaocar’s performance, Pune FC needs to also be wary of a possible backlash from the former League and Fed Cup champions, who will be eager to fight away from the relegation zone.
Pune FC Coach explains, “I am hoping for my players to dish out a similar performance like the one against Bagan. With the right attitude I don’t see any reason why we cannot gain maximum.”
Salgaocar’s woes add up on all fronts with their attack being a major concern. So far, with just 7 goals to boast, the Goans tag themselves with ‘least among all I-League teams’.
In fact, their top-scorers, the foreign duo of Angel Guirado and Sean Rooney, both with 2 goals apiece, will not be featuring. Angel is away on national duty with Philippines, while Australian Rooney has been released.
The onus, thus, will fall on Milagres Gonsalves and India national team winger Francis Fernandes, who have a goal to their credit. Making matters worse for the hosts is the absence of winger Anthony D'Souza, who was top scorer in the Fed Cup with 3 goals.
Same can be said about their defence despite having the trusted central defender in Brazilian Luciano Sabrosa, one of the best in the country and India ‘keeper Karanjit under the bar. So far Salgaocar has not managed to keep a clean-sheet in their last 5 games.
Salgaocar, for the record, are winless in their 3 games played at 'home' this season. Fact is ever since beating Pune FC in Fed Cup, they have managed only 1 win since then.
With the dice loaded in Pune FC’s favour, Coach Derrick Pereira faces a task of naming his 18-man squad.
Having travelled with the entire squad to Goa, the Coach opined, “Many players are pushing hard and I will only take a final call on the 18 tomorrow. Even in practice the players are showing the right attitude which makes it difficult.”
Interestingly, Arata (2), Venkatesh, Jeje, Subash, and Douhou (1 each) have scored against the opponents in the past, which only adds up to the Coach’s worry.
He adds, “There maybe a couple of changes from 18 that played Bagan, but that is purely based on the rotation of players.”
Salgaocar, meanwhile, will miss key player and work-horse Nicolau Colaco. The right-back misses the game for the 4 yellow card suspension rule put into place this season.
For the stat minded, apart from the Pune FC Coach Derrick Pereira and Assistant Coach Norbert Gonsalves, who were ex-Salgaocar captains in their playing day, three current players, S Venkatesh, Sukhwinder Singh and Subash Singh, have also featured for Goans earlier.
The game will be the ninth meeting between the two sides, with Pune FC standing tall in 5 and drawing just once.
Victory would help Pune FC consolidate their position in the Top-4 and close the gap on the Top-3 in the standings
FORM RUN (last 5 matches)
Pune FC (4th; 14 points) D-W-D-W-L