ISL 2017/18: Ranko Popovic demands more respect from referees
FC Pune City host Bengaluru FC in the first leg of the Indian Super League Season 4 (ISL 2017/18) semi-final on Wednesday. After a gruelling league phase, both these sides deserve to be in this place and will now look to go one step further and reach the final.
Pune have created history this time around by reaching the play-offs for the first time in four seasons while Bengaluru FC have done it at the first time of asking.
Both the sides conducted their pre-match press conferences on Friday but due to the tight scheduling and travel issues, Bengaluru's Albert Roca could not attend the media interaction. His deputy Naushad Moosa answered the questions on his behalf.
Moosa revealed that the first team squad had a good training session at their home ground and are preparing well for Wednesday's big game. He also reminded his team's brilliant form on the road this season and remained confident of proceeding further.
He said, "We have lost just two away games this season and have played good football irrespective of the stadium. We have a knack of scoring an early goal which will be the need of the hour in a knockout game."
Meanwhile, Ranko Popovic sounded confident of his team's chances against the winners of the league phase and was proud of making it this far.
"We are preparing in the best possible way and will enter the field with a winning mentality. There's no better incentive than beating the best team so far and we will enter the field with a view to win it," said the confident Serbian.
He also remained cautious of the fact that his side's future hinges on just two games now and demanded his team to be careful from the word go. When asked about the suspension of Emiliano Alfaro and Marcelino in the previous two games, he compared the importance of his star duo with FC Barcelona's reliance on Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Meanwhile, when asked about the refereeing standards in the league, Popovic had a few thoughts to share. He has got in trouble in the past because of his comments about the match officials and thus decided to choose his words wisely.
"I want to be on the touchline tomorrow hence I won't speak much on this issue. But my only request from the referees is to have just a bit more respect for me. I have been involved with the sport for 40 years now and I believe I can command that much respect from them," remarked Popovic.
"I can lose my job if the referee makes a mistake but he does not have the same pressure of losing his job. Who deserves more respect here?" added FC Pune City's man in charge.
It is expected to be a feisty affair in Pune with both these sides playing some of the best brand of football seen in this edition as the first leg promises to be a cracking start to the knockout phase.