Pune, December 10: FC Pune City did well to register a win in their last Hero Indian Super League clash but facing FC Goa will be an entirely different ball game at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune.
Pune have been a pale shadow of the team that made it to the play-offs last season, and despite a morale-boosting victory against Kerala Blasters FC in the previous clash, the hosts still have a battle on their hands to stay alive in the league. Their chances of qualifying for the play-offs are hanging by a thread with eight points from 11 games and they now face a trial by fire against a well-rested FC Goa.
“FC Goa were top scorers last season and the way they are set up to play, they score a lot of goals. They are an attacking team. We’ve to deal with their threat and at the same time, we have to pose a threat. Sometimes putting the other team on the backfoot is the best way to defend,” said Pune interim coach Pradyum Reddy.
Reddy should know how dangerous FC Goa can be. When he took over from Miguel Angel Portugal, FC Goa were the first team he faced and his side was clobbered 2-4 at Fatorda. It was a painful defeat, but since then, Pune have made some progress.
They will have to be wary of the rampaging Gaurs, particularly since their defence isn’t the tightest. They have faced the most shots on goal (197) and have kept only one clean sheet. And they have two of their left-backs unavailable, with Sahil Panwar suspended and Lalchhuanmawia sick.
The coach will want his forwards to find some much-needed form. Marcelinho, who scored the match winner against Kerala, has only two strikes to his name which is his poorest season by far in the ISL.
FC Goa return to action after 12 days and coach Sergio Lobera will expect a response from his side as they haven’t won their previous two games. They suffered a 2-1 defeat at home against Bengaluru FC which was followed by a dour goalless draw in Kolkata.
“The game (against Pune) won’t be easy by any stretch. They won their last match and will have confidence. We haven’t played for quite a while and for us, it is about getting back to our ways,” said assistant coach Jesus Tato.
Despite having played nine matches, which is at least one game less than all others, Goa are still in the top four with 17 points.
The good news is that Hugo Boumous and Mohamed Ali, who were suspended, are back in contention for a place in the starting line-up.
All eyes will be on star striker Ferran Corominas, who has eight goals this season, but hasn’t found the back of the net in over 250 minutes of football.
Can Reddy mastermind his team to a win or will Goa get their campaign back on track with a thumping victory, just like the first leg?