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Pune FC host Mumbai FC in Maharashtra I-League derby

Karim Bencherifa will look to build on a 5-2 victory over Shillong Lajong Pune, Jan 31 (IANS): Pune FC will be keen to maintain their impressive ...

Karim Bencherifa will look to build on a  5-2 victory over Shillong Lajong

Pune, Jan 31 (IANS): Pune FC will be keen to maintain their impressive form when they take on arch-rivals Mumbai FC in an I-League Round fourencounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi here Sunday.

Coming into the game after a dominant 5-2 win over Shillong Lajong FC, Pune FC will be confident going into the season's first Maharashtra derby. Despite Mumbai FC's poor start to the season, the game will be a fiercely fought battle between the two sides with bragging rights on offer.

Moreover, the match will be an important one for Pune FC given the fact that they suffered a first home defeat to their fierce rivals, going down 1-2 in the same fixture last season and will be eager to set the record straight.

Having been held to a 1-1 draw by Salgaocar FC in the league opener, Pune FC came out all guns blazing in the following two games. After dispatching defending champions Bengaluru FC 3-1 last week, Pune FC demolished Lajong 5-2 in the first home game of the season and will be hoping to make it three wins in a row.

"We know how important this derby is. At the same time our focus is also on getting the three points. We had commendable performances in the last two games, but I don't want the players to get complacent," Pune FC coach Karim Bencherifa said.

"Mumbai FC is a very dangerous team. They are always motivated to do good, especially against Pune FC. The game will be a difficult one for us and we need to be at our best."

Leading the charge upfront will be I-League top-scorer Thongkhosiem Haokip (4 goals) along with joint second top scorer Darko Nikac (2). Edgar Marcelino, Arata Izumi and Ryuji Sueoka will pull the strings from the midfield.

On the team news front, Pune FC will have options with no new injuries or suspensions to deal with but the decision on the final 18-man squad will be made on matchday.

Opponents Mumbai FC come into the game as the only team to still open their account in I-League. Having suffered back-to-back losses, the Khalid Jamil-led side will depend heavily on their experienced players.

Going into the game, Mumbai FC will be banking on their attacking trio of Brazilian striker Josimar Martins, Japanese playmaker Taisuke Matsugae and striker Mohammed Rafi. Ashutosh Mehta, Climax Lawrence and Jayesh Rane will be the other key players in their line-up.

Over the years, both sides have faced off 11 times and Pune FC has the upper hand with four wins to Mumbai FC's three. In the eight games played here, which include the Mumbai FC home games, Pune FC have logged three wins compared to the opponent's one.

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