Pune FC look to rub salt into Bagan’s wounds
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Pune FC have managed to win only one of the six matches they played against the Kolkata side in the I-league over the past four seasons. Also, Bagan's dominance has been such that they have opened the scoring in every game against Pune FC.
Mohun Bagan's new coach Karim Benchirifa goes into the game on the end of two disappointing performances — a draw with Mumbai FC in Pune before Dempo SC handed them a 0-3 drubbing in Goa. Moreover, with the much touted Kolkata Derby against East Bengal coming up, the pressure on the squad is clearly mounting, having picked up only a single point from the last two matches.
Incidentally, the first time Pune FC faced Bagan in Pune (2009-10), Bencharifa was in charge and managed a 3-1 win thanks to a Chidi Edeh hat-trick.
Pune FC coach Derrick Perreira said, "Every team has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Neutralising the strengths by putting pressure on weaknesses should win us the game."
While Bagan's over dependence on striker Odafa Okolie will be a job on hand, injuries have been a cause of concern for Bencharifa ever since taking over a week back. Okolie has scored six out of Bagan's eight goals this season and also managed to net against Pune FC in both games last season. Strikers Tolgay Ozbey, Anil Kumar, midfielder Manish Maithani, defender Khelemba Singh and goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya are all set to miss out due to injuries. Defenders Syed Nabi and Eche Anyichie are carrying knocks but may take the field.
Pune FC, however, cannot take their opponents lightly. Bagan has a strong force, which includes India international Nirmal Chhetri, Aibor Khongjee and former India defender Mehrajuddin Wadoo. The midfield also boasts of a strong line-up in the form of India midfielder Jewel Raja, experienced playmaker Denson Devadas with winger Snehasis Chakraborty ready to bomb down the flanks. Bagan will miss the services of Biswajit Saha, who serves a one-match suspension after his sending off against Dempo SC.
"Playing Mohun Bagan for any player is a motivation, which should automatically urge them once out on the field," said Perreira. "I have told the players to play as per plan and also urged them to enjoy the gift God has given them and put their best foot forward," he added.
Pune FC have a fully fit squad for this pivotal game. A clear indication of this fact is the success achieved in Goa with five changes to the playing eleven. Perreira said his side had shown fight in the last game to come back from one goal down and that was an encouraging sign. Perreira also said he was happy with playing the same side that played in Goa and that there would be no changes.
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