Pune, Jan 24 (IBNS) Pune FC seeks a fresh start to their campaign in order to move up the I-League table when they host East Bengal in a Round-18 encounter.
It's a tough order for Pune FC, but by swinging a positive result it will mean increasing points and closing in on the leaders. Pune FC (30 points) is currently fourth and East Bengal (33 points) is second.
So far, the second-leg for Pune FC's has been a mixed bag and a run they seek to change. Beginning with a flourish - a win over United Sikkim FC, the next two games against Prayag United SC and Sporting Clube Goa spiked progress.
An away loss and a drawn home game and scoring goals taking a back seat have translated in the Coach Derrick Pereira terming the game on the morrow as a "do or die."
"We are at a crucial stage in the league wherein every point is of vital importance. Slip-ups and losing focus cannot be afforded at this stage."
"The players have the capability to match any team. I am hoping that they step up tomorrow (Friday) when they play against compatible opponents who in turn force ones best," Coach added
Pune FC goes into the game with an unbeaten record at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex against their Kolkata rivals and will want to keep the run intact.
In three games, Pune FC forced a result in one and was held goalless in the other two. More so, the last time East Bengal were in the city, they ended losing 1-2 to Mumbai FC something Pune FC will hope to repeat.
"They are a good team... a top team. We need to be prepared for a team in the running for the title. It will be a good match," Pune FC Coach informed after a late evening session at Balewadi.
Likewise, East Bengal will be out to get over the major blow Churchill Brothers handed them in Kalyani, Kolkata apart from consolidating their position. It is with this though that Pune FC Coach points out, "It will be important for my players to give their best to earn a result."
Pune FC has effected three changes to the 18 who figured in the last game. While striker Jeje Lalpekhlua is back from injury, experienced midfielder Shanmugam Venkatesh replaces Sukhwinder Singh and defender Nallappan Mohanraj comes in place of Khanthang Paite.
Paite, in fact, sits out as per the agreement Pune FC and East Bengal signed which restricts him from being fielded against the Kolkata side. Earlier, in the first-leg at Kolkata the same clause was honoured.
"Jeje has recovered, is fit though with slight niggles," Pune FC Coach explained. Jeje replaces Velington Rocha.
Having made changes in the 18, the Pune FC Coach hinted about changes in the playing eleven as well. "It not decided yet," the Coach replied.
East Bengal, meanwhile, will look at striker Chidi Edeh to deliver. In fact, the first-leg was decided by his Chidi's strike, which the Pune FC defence hope not to repeat. The Nigerian (11 goals) has netted in seven of the 10 wins his team has logged apart from once in three drawn encounters.
Meanwhile, experienced defender Uga Okpara serves a one-match suspension after picking up his 4th yellow card in the last game.
The Pune FC coach summed up, "It is very important for us (Pune FC) to consolidate our position and move into a better position." Pune FC have in their midst Douhou Pierre, Venkatesh and Jeje who have scored against East Bengal in the past and also expect James Moga (7 goals) to get back to his scoring ways.
Overall, this will be the 10th meeting of the two teams with East Bengal leading the head-to-head with 5 wins, 2 losses and 2 drawn games. In the I-League it will be the seventh match-up with Pune FC having won 2, lost 3 and drawn 2.
FORM RUN (Last 5 Matches)
Pune FC (4th, 30 points): D-L-W-W-W
East Bengal (2nd, 33 points): L-W-L-W-W
EB 'Away' Form: L-W-L-D-W-W-W-D
PFC 'Home' Form: D-W-D-D-L-W-W
29/10/12 IL East Bengal 1-0 Pune FC at Kolkata
14/01/12 IL Pune FC 0-0 East Bengal at Pune
09/11/11 IL East Bengal 3-1 Pune FC at Kolkata
19/09/11 FEC East Bengal 2-1 Pune FC at Kolkata
18/04/11 IL Pune FC 2-1 East Bengal at Pune
08/01/11 IL East Bengal 1-0 Pune FC at Kolkata
25/09/10 FEC East Bengal 1-0 Pune FC at Cuttack
02/03/10 IL East Bengal 1-2 Pune FC at Kolkata
03/10/09 IL Pune FC 0-0 East Bengal at Pune