Pune FC will be out to extend their winning run in the I-League 2012-13 when they clash with Mumbai FC on Thursday at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi here.
Having set the tone, the hosts will be wary of their opponents who go into this Round-2 clash desperately needing to open their account. The opening round reverse to Pailan Arrows in Round 1 meant Mumbai FC is yet to register a win this season.
So far, Mumbai FC in four competitive games lost 2 and drew one in Jamshedpur apart from the I-League opener.
Pune FC Coach, Derrick Pereira, opined, "Every 'Maha Derby' is a big fight. And yes we expect them to come at us and have our plans in place."
Cautious about the expected backlash, Pune FC coach believes this unique twice-in-a-year-league Darby is all about two sides trying to best each other after being formed in the same year. "Regional superiority is also another factor as four teams compete in the league," he explained.
Having opened with a 3-2 victory over ONGC, the Pune FC Coach was satisfied with the result, but felt that the team could have done better. "We will go with the same attitude and certainly cannot underestimate our opponents."
On the eve of the Mumbai FC game, the Coach hinted at changes in the squad. Midfielder Mumtaz Akthar, suspended for Thursday's game, has opened the doors for on-loan signee Khantang Paite.
Likewise, Abhra Mondal, N Mohanraj, Sukhwinder Singh and Nikhil Kadam continue to recover from their respective injuries.
The Coach said, "From the rest available some are recovering from niggles from the last match and that will need to be looked into on the day of the match."
The late evening game would also mean a lot of familiar faces turning out as rivals and includes medio Kamaljeet Kumar and striker Sampath Kuttimani both ex-Pune FC turned Mumbai FC players. Same can be said of Pune FC defender Anas Edathodika, who switched sides last year.
Interestingly, the encounter also expects to have the Costas' - Caitano and Peter, face off. Peter is coming back after an injury that sidelined him for a couple of years.
Both sides face-off for the sixth time in I-League, with Pune FC holding the edge winning two and playing out three drawn encounters. In fact, at home Pune FC has never lost an encounter in the four times they met and includes the 3-0 win registered in the last meeting.
Striker Subash Singh has a unique distinction of scoring three of the last four goals Pune FC scored against Mumbai FC in the last 3 games and ever since he´s been at the club.
With the Mumbai FC defence leaking 11 goals in their 4-match season so far, both Subash and Jeje Lalpekhlua will hope to continue their scoring ways.
"We've had a good start and we need to build on it," summed up Pune FC coach after a pre-match practice session at the venue.
Mumbai FC will be led by Ghanaian defensive player Evans Quao, and boast of experience through the team with the likes of Nicholas Rodrigues and Subhash Chakraborty on the flanks, James Singh in the centre of the park.
Upfront ND Opara, who has four goals to his name this season and Abhishek Yadav give the line up punch, apart from Afghan captain Haroon Fakhruddin is their hard-running man-friday, who can play anywhere in midfield, defence, or attack.
Form Run (Last 5 matches):
Pune FC (3rd, 3 points): W-L-D-W-D
Mumbai FC (9th, 0 points): L-D-L-L
18/01/12 IL Pune FC 3-0 Mumbai FC at Pune
18/12/11 IL Mumbai FC 0-0 Pune FC at Pune
15/05/11 IL Pune FC 1-1 Mumbai FC at Pune
08/12/10 IL Mumbai FC 2-0 Pune FC at Kolhapur
03/04/10 IL Mumbai FC 1-2 Pune FC at Mumbai
24/10/09 IL Pune FC 1-1 Mumbai FC at Pune
23/04/08 I2D Mumbai FC 1-0 Pune FC at Guwahati