Pune FC face Tampines Rovers in a must-win AFC Cup game
Pune: Seeking their first-ever win on the continental stage, Pune FC host Singapore`s Tampines Rovers in a must-win group match of the AFC Cup here tomorrow.
Despite taking the lead in first half, Pune FC went down 1-3 to the same opponents in the previous round a couple of weeks ago and thus will seek revenge at this turn-over stage of the competition.
For Pune FC (2 points), who are at the bottom in Group-H behind Kitchee (7 points), Nay Pyi Taw (4 points) and Tampines Rovers (3 points), a win will boost their hopes of qualification to the next round.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Pune FC coach Mike Snoei said, "It`s our last chance to stay in contention and we will go for a good win. Tampines is not an easy opponent but we definitely want revenge for our loss against them in the last game."
Snoei said both I-League and the AFC Cup are equally important for Pune FC.
"Last year, we fought very hard to qualify for the AFC Cup. I want to too see our team`s ability on the Asian level. But again, I-League is also an important competition for us.
"We will be using our experienced players tomorrow and will give everything. We will not risk anything and we must prove tomorrow that we are a better team," he added when asked about the team composition.
Echoing his coach`s sentiments, Pune FC skipper Douhou Pierre said, "If we get all three points tomorrow, we will be in a better position when we go to Myanmar (to play Nay Pyi Taw) and then host Kitchee in Pune. It`s a last chance for us tomorrow and we need to win."
Coached by former Singapore international Salim Moin, Tampines plies its trade in the S-League and presently occupy the top spot in the standings.
Currently making their fourth consecutive and seventh overall appearance in the AFC Cup (2005-07 and 2011-13), Tampines' best ever finish was reaching the quarterfinals in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Speaking about hosts Pune FC, Tampines Rovers Coach Salim Moin said, "It is great to be here in Pune. The home side, Pune FC have provided us with great facilities."
"I respect the opponents despite our win in the previous round. However, this is a different ball game, so we want to approach it carefully," he added.
Talking about his squad, he added, "We had a tough game in S-League this weekend. Hopefully we can overcome the jetlag. Injury-wise, we will only make a decision later."
Asked about his aim for the game, "We look at this game as a very important one. A win or a draw will be equally good for us."
Tampines skipper Mustafic Fahrudin said, "It's going to be a tough game. Pune FC is a good team and they played well in Singapore, but we managed to score goals against them. Tomorrow it's going to be an open game, and hopefully we get a point here."
The three-time S-League defending champions have notched up five wins out of five in their domestic campaign this season and go into the game on the back of four consecutive wins in all competitions.
On the other hand, while making their maiden AFC Cup appearance, Pune FC are at the business end of their I-League campaign and currently sit third in the table with four matches remaining.
Having travelled throughout the last month to play four away games in Hong Kong, Singapore, Goa and Bengaluru, Pune FC will be happy to be back in familiar surrounds and will hope to make the home advantage count