I-League: Pune FC ready for first match at home
Pune: Pune FC, last year`s runners-up, face a load of expectations against Mohun Bagan when they set foot here Thursday for their first home game in I-League football.
Unbeaten in two rounds, Pune FC also brace up to the fact that the first show at the Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi in all four seasons yielded points.
Having begun their campaign away in this edition, Thursday`s encounter is biggest for home fans who last remember a win and was party to Pune FC`s best ever finish in the league.
Under lights on the morrow, Mike Snoei`s Pune FC, will thus, hope to take off from where they left off.
Snoei said: "I am looking forward to the game. All my players and especially the foreigners are looking forward to the big games."
"I hope we can get more people into the stadium, because on paper it is a fantastic game."
Pune FC (4 points) currently occupies fifth position in the league, Mohun Bagan, who are yet to taste a win, have just two points and are in the bottom half of the league in eighth spot.
Both teams go into the match after an extended break. Pune FC`s Round-3 clash against East Bengal was cancelled, while Mohun Bagan did not have a match scheduled.
Interestingly, this the second time Pune FC opens their home campaign against Mohun Bagan with the last being back in 2010-11.
Both teams in fact share a common stat; that being carrying forward an unbeaten streak that stretching from last season. Pune FC is unbeaten in seven games (including two games this season), while Bagan are unbeaten in five.
The visitors have revamped their squad ahead of this campaign and have brought in a number of players. Keeper Sandip Nandy, defenders Kingshuk Debnath and Wahid Sali, midfielders M.P. Sakeer and Japanese Katsumi Yusa along with Kenyan striker Eric Muranda are new arrivals.
The Karim Bencherifa led side have retained few players from last season - playmaker Denson Devadas, defenders Aiborlang Khongjee, Nigerian Celestine Eche and forward CS Sabeeth continue at Bagan. However, the visitors will be missing services of talismanic striker Odafa Okolie along with midfielders Manish Bhargav and Adil Khan.
The home side will be back to their best as they welcome back striker Raul Fabiani. The 6`6" Equato-Guinean missed the previous game owing to a one-match suspension following his double-booking against Mohammedan Sporting in opener.
Medio Dhanapal Ganesh will be the only player unavailable due to injury while playmaker Lalrempuia Fanai is away on national duty.