Pune: Unbeaten in nine games so far, a depleted Pune FC are gearing up to continue the fine run when they take on state rivals Air India in a round 16 I-League game here on Saturday.
The Derrick Pereira-coached outfit, who have 26 points to their credit and are fifth in the standings, will have to play without four regular players which could upset their plans in the afternoon game at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Mhalunge-Balewadi.
Pune FC are stepping into their second leg game against the airmen (20 points and lying 7th)) without defender Gurjinder Kumar and central medios Douhou Pierre, Baldeep Singh, who will serve a one match suspension after receiving two cautions in two separate matches.
Also missing would be defender Anas Edathodika who was red-carded in their previous game, but Coach Pereira is confident his reserves can rise up to the challenge.
"To be frank we have enough quality on the bench and as I always say it is an opportunity for them (bench players) to up the ante," he said.
In the last five matches, Pune FC recorded three wins and two draws, the wins coming against Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers and Mumbai FC.
On the earlier occasion when the two teams met in the 7th round in November last year, Pune FC got the better of the airmen 2-0 at the same ground. They would like to continue their domination of AI before their series of away matches commencing with Shillong Lajong in Guwahati on January 28.
AI are coming into the game with their morale a bit low following 1-3 defeat at home against Dempo. Losses against the Kolkata`s big guns - Bagan and East Bengal – previously had already lowered their confidence. They need to regroup fast to take on a solid Pune FC outfit.
Pune FC, who have beaten their Mumbai rivals thrice in the current season, are thus fancied to gain full points.