Preview: Pune FC aim for first ever overseas trophy
Pune FC will aim to clinch their first ever overseas title when they face Bangladesh's Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi in the King's Cup final at the Changlimithang Stadium here Tuesday.
Having held their nerves till the end to qualify for the final with a 7-6 sudden death win over Mohun Bagan, Pune FC will hope to sign off in style. Moreover, playing in the final of the biggest sporting event in Bhutan in front of the nation's royal family will definitely provide additional motivation.
Playing their second final of the season after Durand Cup, Pune FC come into the game on the back of five consecutive wins and will be eager to maintain the run. However, the task at hand won't be easy against a strong Sheikh Jamal side, who come into the game having brushed aside defending champions MMC, Nepal in the semi-finals.
While both sides were stretched into extra time in the semis, Sheikh Jamal carry forward the advantage of having an extra rest day. On the other hand, it will be a tough situation for Pune FC who were not only pushed to extra time but were even involved in a penalty shootout Sunday.
"We are playing our second tournament in less than a month and we have to deal with issues like fatigue and injuries. But the players have had a right attitude and their approach has been professional throughout," said coach Karim Bencherifa on Monday.
Despite having just one day for preparing for the final, Pune FC will hope to get the maximum out of the situation having encountered similar conditions in the past.
"We are excited to be in our second final in less than a month. But Jamal also are a fantastic side. Being the biggest club in Bangladesh, they attract top local players and love to play good football. So it will be a good game," added Bencherifa.
On the team news front, Pune FC doesn't have any major injuries to worry about. A few niggles apart, the squad of 22 will give Bencherifa plenty of options.
With striker Prakash Thorat too getting on the scoresheet in the previous game, he joins fellow attackers Eric Brown, Ryuji Sueoka and Thongkhosiem Haokip among the goals which gives Bencherifa a strong frontline.
On the other hand, Sheikh Jamal, coached by A.K.M. Maruful Haque, will be confident having secured consecutive wins over Mohun Bagan and MMC, Nepal.
Going into the game, the 2013-14 Bangladesh Premier League champions will be banking heavily on the foreign quartet of Darboe Landing, Daniel Sirin, Wedson Anselme and Emeka Darlington. The attackers will definitely be a challenge for the Pune FC defence led by skipper Anas Edathodika and Luciano Sabrosa.
For Pune FC, this will be the second time they face a team from Bangladesh. Having beaten another Bangladeshi side Abahani Ltd, Dhaka, earlier in the competition, Pune FC will hope for a similar result.
En route to the final, Pune FC overcame defending champions MMC (2-1), Ugyen Academy, Bhutan (1-0), Assam Electricity Board (5-0) and Abahani Ltd, Dhaka (2-0) in the group stage before beating Mohun Bagan 7-6 in a semi-final shootout.