Preview: Resurgent Bharat FC confident of defeating Pune FC in derby
Riding high on confidence after downing table-toppers Mohun Bagan AC in midweek, Bharat FC will host Pune FC in the return leg of the Pune derby on Sunday night. The Hero I-League round 11 (rescheduled) clash will kick-off at 7 pm on Sunday at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi and will be telecast live on Ten Action.
Bharat FC put on a rousing performance on their way to securing three points against Mohun Bagan AC on Tuesday and will be looking to replicate the things that they did right against the Kolkata side when they face their cross-town rivals.
A Subash Singh goal gave the Lions full points against Bagan and Bharat FC’s head coach Stuart Watkiss will be expecting more of the same from his in-form attacker on Sunday night.
Bharat FC are currently 10th in the Hero I-League with 15 points from 16 matches. Pune FC who have enjoyed a two-week break occupy sixth place with 23 points from 16 matches. The Lions snapped their two-match losing streak with a victory in the last match and Watkiss will expect his team to improve their form after just one victory and a draw in the Lions’ last five games.
After a storming start to the season, Pune FC also look to have tailed off. The Red Lizards have lost their last two matches at home, going down to Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan AC respectively.
Bharat FC’s coach Stuart Watkiss said that he could not have asked for a better result than the one his side earned as he went into what would be a pivotal fixture in Bharat FC’s debut season.
“The performance that the lads put in on Tuesday has lifted everyone. The energy we showed on the pitch, the tactical discipline we adhered to and the sheer number of chances we created are proof that we are moving in the right direction. Sunday is a massive game for us but I think we couldn’t have asked for a better build-up than what we have had,” he said.
Three points on Sunday will ensure that Bharat FC get off the bottom of the table with a chance to go as high as sixth, a distinct possibility. The Bharat FC head coach said that going by the performance that both teams dished out in the inaugural Pune derby, he was looking forward to an open and exciting game.
“Derbies are great occasions. Something that you have to relish and use it as a springboard to raise your game on the day. We saw both teams doing that the last time we met and I expect much more of the same. The people of Pune were treated to an engaging 90 minutes the last time we faced Pune FC and I am sure we have another cracker coming up tomorrow,” said Watkiss.
The Englishman is expected to retain most of the players who were part of the match-day squad against Mohun Bagan AC. New Zealand international striker, Kris Bright, who scored in the last Pune derby, will have to undergo a fitness test on Sunday as he aims to prove his fitness after being sidelined due to a hamstring issue.
Club-captain Gouramangi Singh and goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya are nursing niggles and Watkiss said that their availability would be decided after consulting with his medical staff.
"It has been quite a hectic season. The scheduling has been tight and it is only natural that a few of the boys are carrying niggles. We will have a discussion on what is the best and fittest combination on the morning of the match and only then take a call,” he said.
AnasEdathodika, Pune FC’s regular captain, will be missing the clash due to injury. Joining him on the sidelines are Ishfaq Ahmed and SrikanthRamu. Midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh is suspended for the encounter.
Gift Raikhan, Pune FC’s assistant coach said that his side had learnt its lessons from the first Pune derby and were keen to put up a strong showing.
“We respect Bharat FC, they are a good team trained by a very good coach. However, we have analyzed our game against them, we know what our strengths are and we are going to go and ensure that we play to these and maximize our chances of getting full points,” he said.