Mohun Bagan host leaders Pune FC in the I-League
Kolkata, February 6 (IANS)
Pune FC will aim to build on their impressive start to the I-League campaign when they face Mohun Bagan in a crucial Round 5 away encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Saturday.
The clash will be an important one for both sides. While a win will help top-placed Pune FC (10 points) strengthen their grip at the summit of the standings, a positive result for the hosts, who are sixth with four points, will help them move up the table.
Playing their first match here this season, the game will also be Pune FC's third away fixture in the I-League. Moreover, having logged three consecutive wins after an opening day draw against Salgaocar FC, Pune FC will hope to extend their unbeaten run.
“It was a pleasing performance from the players in the last few games. We have played some fantastic attacking football and the players have showed a lot of dedication and discipline,” said Pune FC coach Karim Bencherifa.
Pune FC will be confident going into the game after a thrilling win over Mumbai FC last weekend. However, the task at hand won't be an easy one against Mohun Bagan who too are unbeaten in the I-League.
Moreover, the match will be an exciting one for Bencherifa as he takes on his former side for the first time at the Salt Lake Stadium as a Pune FC coach.
“They are a good side and I rate them very highly. We have already faced Bagan twice this season. The game will also be a tough match given that they will be playing at their home. But we too mean business and are prepared for the challenge.”
Having already clashed twice in the King's Cup semi-final and the Federation Cup group stage earlier this season, both sides have a fair idea about each other. While both these games ended 1-1, Pune FC have the upper hand given the fact that they won the first game in Bhutan in a penalty shootout.
On the team news front, Pune FC have made just one change to the 18-member squad with winger Anthony D'Souza replacing defender Salam Ranjan Singh. With all members fit and raring to go, Bencherifa will have a lot of options ahead.
On the other hand, hosts Mohun Bagan come into the game on a two-match unbeaten run after a win and a draw in their opening two games against Mumbai FC (home) and Salgaocar FC (away), respectively.
Boasting a strong team, Bagan will rely heavily on their overseas attacking trio of Cameroonian striker Pierre Boya, Japanese playmaker Katsumi Yusa and Haitian winger Sony Norde to fire up front.
The defence will be marshalled by Nigerian Bello Rasaq along with the experienced Anwar Ali and Pritam Kotal. The likes of Lalkamal Bhowmick, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh will also provide options across the offensive line.
Over the years, both sides have faced off 14 times in four different competitions. Having logged four wins against Bagan's five in these meetings, Pune FC will be eager to set the record straight. Furthermore, in 10 I-League encounters over the past five years, both sides have a similar record, sharing three wins each.