Pune FC eager to keep qualification hopes alive

Nay Pyi Taw: Pune FC would look to keep their hopes of qualifying for AFC Cup knockout stage alive when they take on Myanmar side Nay Pyi Taw in a crucial Group H Round 5 encounter at the Paung Luang Stadium here on Tuesday.

Going into the game on the back of two consecutive losses at home in different competitions, Pune FC will be keen to shrug off their disappointing run and will seek their first ever win on the continental stage.

With qualification hopes now hanging by a thread, Pune (4th with two points) will hope to bounce back to winning ways after losing back-to-back games against Singapore`s Tampines Rovers at the turn over point of the group stage.

On the other hand, Nay Pyi Taw (third with four points) too come into the game on the back of a disappointing run in the competition. After drawing their opening game 2-2 in Pune, Nay Pyi Taw beat Tampines in Myanmar before losing back-to-back games against group leaders Kitchee SC at home and away.

Tomorrow`s clash will be an equally crucial one for both sides to keep their aspirations of a second place finish alive.

Nay Pyi Taw are currently sitting on top of Myanmar National League with six wins in nine games and will hope to bring that form onto the continental stage.

The hosts will be heavily banking on Italian striker Michele Di Piedi (six goals) and attacker Aung Kyaw Naing (four goals) to get the goals upfront. However, they will be missing services of Korean playmaker Jung Yoon-Sik, their top-scorer in the AFC Cup with two goals.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Pune FC coach Mike Snoei said, "It`s nice to be here. We cannot prepare (for this game) ... We had a very long trip from airport (to reach Nay Pyi Taw). Overall it was a 22-hour journey.

"Instead of training yesterday after arrival, I gave my team an off. They were completely dead, very tired. We also played a game three days ago; so to recover they really needed the rest. This is something (training once) we are doing for the first time."

Defender Nicolau Borges has been drafted into the 18-man squad as medio Dhanpal Ganesh misses out.