Pune, Apr 27 (IBNS) Pune FC will bank on their winning run and hope to extend their form against Air-India in an I-League Round 6 rescheduled encounter at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Pune, on Sunday.
With the title not yet decided, Pune FC has an eye on going six points clear of third placed East Bengal. Currently, Pune FC has 46 points from 25 games and any gain on the morrow will help in logging their best points tally ever and surpass the last year's effort.
The face-off between the two teams is the second time in a span of eight days at the same venue. A week earlier, Pune FC thrashed the Airmen 6-0 to register their biggest ever win in an afternoon kick off. A similar feat is expected as Pune FC is eager to exploit cooler conditions in their ´home´ game under lights.
Pune FC's primary objective is to not compromise in putting out their best. This in turn will keep leaders Churchill Brothers (51 points) under pressure until the end. In fact, ever since the loss to Churchill Brothers in Goa, Pune has been on the right track with three consecutive away wins over ONGC FC (1-0 at Delhi), Air India (6-0 at Pune) and Mohun Bagan AC (3-1 at Kalyani).
Coach Derrick Pereira adds, "It's the penultimate last match and basically a new game to start afresh. The players are confident and to achieve we need to mentally and physically ready... the last match (V/s Bagan) proved that. I am confident they (players) will do well."
However, the humiliation that Pune FC inflicted over Air-India the last time is something the hosts need to keep a check on with the possibility of an all out effort to get not a possibility to be ruled out. Moreover with relegation looming large over Air India the need to play for pride is also something the Mumbai-based side is expected to play for.
Air India overall has a plethora of problems and includes their own form under new Coach Naushad Moosa.
While Air India goes into the game having a long break, the hosts played Mohun Bagan midweek in another rescheduled match resulting in a win and boosted confidence sky high.
The encounter is the penultimate game for both teams, each in their individual quests; hence a positive result is hugely vital for both.
Pune FC who returns to home action exactly a month after beating Dempo SC 2-0, would want to maintain their tradition of having won every penultimate game of the three I-League seasons thus far.
With Pune FC playing the final two games at home for the first time in four years, wins in both will be the objective in order to also enhance home record.
Over the past three games, Pune FC has had six different scorers with striker James Moga in top-form scoring in every game and a total of four goals. Playmaker Douhou Pierre follows with a couple strikes, which adds up to advantage in their quest to impress the home fans.
Air India will be boosted by the return of first-choice keeper Bubai Singh whose absence was felt last week, but their main area of concern is their back-line. So far, Air India has conceded 56 goals, more than any team. Furthermore the suspension of experienced defender Prem Kumar, who picked up his fourth yellow card last week, adds to their woes.
Pune FC on the other hand has no suspensions or injuries to worry about and will go into the game with a full strength squad to choose from. The squad, however, has made three changes to the 18-member team.
In goal Shahinlal Meloly comes in place of Abhra Mondal, midfielder Nilhil Kadam (for Srikanth Ramu) and Lalrempuia (for Sukhwinder Singh).
This is the 12th meeting between both sides. In I-League, Pune FC stand tall with 3 wins from the seven games played apart from being involved in 2 draws.
FORM RUN (Last 5 Matches)
Air-India (13th; 19 points): L-L-L-L-D
Pune FC (2nd; 46 points): W-W-W-L-W
PFC ´Home´ Form: W-D-L-L-D-W-D-D-L-W-W
AI ´Away´ Form: L-L-L-D-L-D-L-W-L-W-L-L
20/04/13 I-L Air India 0-6 Pune FC at Pune
22/01/12 I-L Pune FC 2-2 Air India at Pune
24/11/11 I-L Pune FC 2-0 Air-India at Pune
13/10/11 DC Pune FC 2-1 Air India at New Delhi
04/03/11 I-L Pune FC 2-1 Air-India at Pune
03/01/11 I-L Air-India 0-0 Pune FC at Kolhapur
23/09/10 FEC Air-India 0-2 Pune FC at Cuttack
14/03/10 I-L Air-India 1-0 Pune FC at Mumbai
24/12/09 FEC Pune FC 1-1 Air-India at Guwahati
18/10/09 I-L Pune FC 0-1 Air India at Pune
30/08/09 IFA Air-India 2-1 Pune FC at Kolkata