Pune, April 19 (IANS) Pune FC believe there still remains a chance to push up further in the I-League table. And hence, on the eve of their Round 25 away game against Air-India, talk revolved on staying positive and achieving maximum at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here Saturday.
Saturday’s game, incidentally the first meeting between the state neighbours this season, is thus important for Pune FC purely to bridge the gap.
Currently in third place (40 points), Pune FC trail East Bengal by 3 points and leaders Churchill Brothers by 8 points and hope not to slip-up in the race for a best rank.
For the record, Pune FC, who will be playing their 23rd match, holds a one-match advantage over the Kolkata and Goan sides
Rivals Air-India is certain to be no pushovers for Pune FC on the morrow. With relegation looming large, apart from their future existence in the I-League in doubt, the Mumbai side will be out to hold their heads high.
With the odds stacked against Air-India, Pune FC will be looking at capatalising on the situation.
Pune coach, Derrick Pereira said: “We are looking at 3 points and consolidate our position and put pressure on the Top-2 teams I am hoping for a miracle in the final run as well. In the situation we are in there is only one option and that is play to win and leave all other possibilities to take its own course.”.
Air-India, under new coach Naushad Moosa, of late has adapted to playing with a totally different style.
The Mumbai-side, however, remain winless in the six games played under the new coach. Making matters worse, Air-India’s defence has leaked 17 goals and have managed to score just 5, which hands Pune FC reason to explore and make use in their quest.
Another worrying factor has been Air-India picking up three red cards in their last three games in which they’ve conceded 11 goals.
With only one clean sheet overall and having conceded 50 goals this season, Air-India stay above bottom-dwelling United Sikkim FC by 4 points.
In contrast is Air-India’s attack with the lively Henry Ezeh, leading the front with 9 goals. He is supported by the wily Nigerian Elijah Obagmiro Junior (4) and local-boy Prakash Thorat (3).
A goal threat is also ever present from their midfielders, with regulars Micky Fernandes, Souvik Chakraborty, Pradeep Mohanraj and Vijith Shetty having netted twice each.
On the team front, goalkeeper Bubai Singh misses the game after being red-carded in their previous game. Bubai’s place will thus be taken by experienced Sukhwinder Singh.
Air-India, who use Balewadi as their temporary ‘home’, have picked up only 11 points in their 12 games at the venue. At the same time, Pune FC have only picked up 19 points in their 12 games played in Pune and look to re-establish their dominance in their home fort come these last few games of the season.
Pune FC, fresh from getting back to winning ways against ONGC, will hope that the run extends at home, including two more games (Air-India, Pailan Arrows) over the next three weeks.