Pune FC geared for second place finish

Pune, May 10 (IANS) Pune FC have their eyes set on finishing second, the next best position at stake in the I-League after the champions were decided a round earlier.

While a runner-up spot will be first by Pune FC, the aim ahead of Round 26 against Pailan Arrows is to win in front of their home fans at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here.

Irrespective of the result, Pune (49 points) is assured of the third place. However, coach Derrick Perreira is in no mood to compromise and is well aware that East Bengal (47 points) can leap-frog them.

“The game is important like any other game. We are in with an excellent chance to finish with our best. The players are ready and realise what is expected of them,” said Perreira.

Victory on the morrow will add up several other achievements. Apart from achieving a best-ever season, Pune stand a chance of ending with highest wins (15 already) and similarly top the scoring charts — Pune (51 goals) trail Churchill (53) and Prayag United SC (52).

Pune will also hope that their four-match winning run extends one last time.

Arrows go into the game as without pressure for a result and nothing to lose and pose no easy customers on a given day.

“Arrows are a young, energetic and fighting side. We will need to keep a check of that, stick to our plans and force the result we want to complete our season on a high,” added the Pune coach.

Earlier in the season, it was Pune who had ended Arrows’ nine-game unbeaten streak in all competitions with a 2-0 win in Kolkata. Following that, in 23 games in all competitions, they have only managed four wins and three draws and suffered 16 losses.

Arrows, currently above the relegation in 12th, have troubled the rivals’ defence having scored 10 goals in their last 12 games. Holicharan Narzary and Milan Singh (five each) lead the goal scoring charts and goal-threats are present from all over with the likes of Indian national team attacker George Alwyn, Len Doungel and wingers Shaijumon and Tirthankar doing well.

Arrows will have a host of absentees among their regulars beginning with on-loan Pune FC midfielder D. Ganeshan ineligible to play and centre-back Deepak Devrani (injury).

Pritam Kotal and Prabir Das will help shore up the defence led by India international Shouvik Ghosh. Ex-Pune FC custodian Soram Poirei, who incidentally made his league debut with Pune FC in the last home match of the 2010-11 season, returns as the established No.1 goalkeeper for the visitors.

Pune FC would nonetheless be keen to take advantage of the relatively inexperienced Arrows back-line. Exposing Arrows is the fact that they have conceded goals in all but three matches of the 23 played ever since the two teams met in the first leg back in November.

Adding confidence is Pune FC’s strike prowess upfront which reads 22 goals in the last last eight I-League games, including 13 in the last 3. Adding up to advantage is the unbeaten record Pune FC boasts. In six encounters, the count reads three wins and three draws and includes two wins in the two fixtures played at Balewadi.

Perreira kept his cards close to the chest and is expected to have the same 18-named for the game. With a full injury-free squad to choose from, options are aplenty ahead of this must-win game.

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