ISL 2017-18: FC Pune City assistant coach says Marcelinho's absence won't affect the team
Indian Super League will witness a tectonic clash on Saturday evening when FC Pune City take on Chennaiyin FC in Chennai. The two teams currently sit third and second respectively on the table and will be looking to score crucial points in a bid to consolidate their top-four spot.
In an interesting bit of coincidence, both teams will take to the field without their head coaches; both of them currently serving a suspension for comments made by them about the officiating in some of the games.
So as with Sabir Pasha earlier, it was Pune City's assistant coach Vladica Grujic who took up media duties ahead of the game.
"We are here to win every game", opened Grujic about his side's mentality.
He highlighted that we were at a key phase of the competition, something that he expects his players to understand.
"Tomorrow, we are playing a strong team against Chennaiyin. Our players need to know this. Now is the time where it will be decided who will enter the playoffs. It is very important to win points at this stage", said Grujic.
Talking about tomorrow's game, in particular, he said that his team's approach will be the same that it has been right through the season: "Everybody knows how we play football - we play with possession and strong, offensive football. Let's see what happens tomorrow. I think it will be a very interesting game."
Pune City will be without one of their best attackers, though, in Marcelinho. The forward picked up an automatic one-game suspension after collecting his fourth yellow card in his side's previous game.
Grujic said that while he will be missed, it is up to a good team to not rely on one player.
"Marcelinho is one of the best players in the league. We will miss him, I'm sure, but I know our team has good quality. If a team cannot play well without one player, then that is no team."
When queried on who is likely to take Marcelinho's place, Grujic replied: "Diego (Carlos) will come into the eleven."
Grujic also insisted that while his team are currently third on the table, it meant nothing and that his players should avoid being complacent.
"We have achieved nothing yet", said the Serb. "You can be first, you can be fourth, you can be last. And now, like I said before, is the time to win the points to finish as early as possible in the top-four. Then everything else is possible. But as of now, it's nothing."
"We have played only nine games. Even the last team can come and finish fourth, fifth, etc. The players need to know this and that is why they must not fly. Winning one game is nothing, you have to continuously win two-three games. Then it's something", he added.
He also made light of the fact that Pune City have never beaten Chennaiyin in the history of the ISL.
"I don't think so", he said on if it was something that the team was conscious of. "This is a new team. The team that played last season is not here. For us, it is nothing but a stat. We want to play a strong game tomorrow. We will give everything to change this stat."
Pune City come into this game after drawing 1-1 away at Kerala Blasters. However, it could have been a totally different result had Pune taken their chances after being so dominant in the first half. Grujic agreed that it wasn't the best result and that perhaps it was due to some complacency in the ranks.
"After the NorthEast game, maybe some players started to fly little bit because we won 5-0. It could have finished 5-4. In the first half, we should have killed the game (vs Blasters), scored three-four goals. But at half-time, we spoke to the team, told them to finish the game because we still had 45 minutes to go.
"I tell every time that even a big club like Manchester United or Chelsea... if they play the first half perfect but score only one goal with chances to score three or four, and if they don't score in the second half, then the game is totally another thing. This happens with the biggest of big professional teams", he went on to explain.
He hoped though that the previous result will serve as a reminder to his players about what has to be done going forward to avoid similar situations.
"I hope our players understand the mistakes they made in Kochi. I think tomorrow we will see the Pune team that everybody knows", said Grujic sounding off a note of warning.