The match features two of the league’s most attacking teams and almost certainly guarantees goals.

Matchweek 5 of the Indian Super League (ISL) will get underway with a battle at the top end of the standings as FC Pune City prepare to host table-toppers Bengaluru FC at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune on Thursday. Pune currently occupy fourth spot with nine points from five matches and head into the contest against Bengaluru on the back of a win against Jamshedpur FC.

The hosts though have fared better on their travels than at home having managed just one win from their three games in Pune so far. Head coach Ranko Popovic, however, wants his players to show the same level of desire and determination in every game irrespective of the venue of the game. “We did win (at home). I think against Mumbai (City FC), we won the game even though it was close. But as I said, I want to play in the same way everywhere, and to win games. I want my team to show desire and do everything they can to win games,” Popovic told the media at the pre-match press conference.

He continued: “In all these games, we can see that too. What happened afterwards, were small moments that decided the outcome. In the last game at home, a set piece decided the result. We had many more chances, but we didn’t create goals or realise the opportunities.”  

The Serbian head coach admitted that Bengaluru will be a difficult side to play against. “There are no secrets that they are strong, and a very good team who play really well. They have some individual players who are in great form now. But, this is also a good challenge for us to see how we find a way to stop them, and how to be better than the opponent.

He added, “I think Bengaluru has an advantage over everyone because they started (preparations for the season) earlier, and have had more matches together. How we fare in the end, we will see, because sometimes you run out of gasoline to finish the race. At the moment, I think they have a bit of an advantage over us, but I don’t want to say that they are favourites for the match. FC Pune City must be the favourites, especially when playing at home,” he said.

The Stallions will be without the services of left-back Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, who was show a red card in his side’s previous match. Commenting on how Pune will cope in the absence of Fanai, Popvic said: “Rafa (Rafael Lopez) at left-back is interesting, and we will see. Maybe it is good to be surprised and to wait sometimes. I don’t have secrets, but we will see. Baljit (Sahni) was out because of injury, and if in any case he is fine, then we have more options. We have some options though – maybe Adil (Khan), maybe Isaac (Vanmalsawma,) too. If he is fit, Jewel (Raja) can play in this position too. The good thing is that I like to have more versatile players. But for tomorrow, I don’t know who will be fit yet. At this moment, I think the doctor has a better idea about the team than me, and we will try to find the best eleven together.”

When asked about his expectations from the clash against the Blues, the 50-year-old added: “What we are looking for is for Pune to always improve, and to improve our style. We have to be one unit, and be strong and collective. I hope this can bring us to the point where we want to be, and to get the three points tomorrow.”

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Current table-toppers Bengaluru FC take on FC Pune City at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune on Thursday in search of their fourth win of the season. After succumbing to their first Hero ISL defeat against FC Goa, the Blues came back strongly against NorthEast United FC in their previous encounter to get their debut Hero ISL campaign back on track.

Pune City have one of the best-attacking units this season, which has combined brilliantly to unlock opponent defences. In the pre-match press conference, Bengaluru’s head coach Albert Roca was asked how his team is gearing up to thwart Pune’s attacking threats. “We have watched a lot of their (Emiliano Alfaro and Marcelinho) videos to understand how to stop them. We are ready for that even though we had a short time to prepare for the game. We also have enough to put them in trouble. The one who makes an error can cost a lot,” Roca said.

He further added, “We know how difficult it is to stop these kind of players, but at the same time we also scored a lot of goals and hope to be at the same level tomorrow. I expect a tough game. Pune has shown that they are more or less at the same level. It’s going to be difficult. Pune have enough experience to put us in trouble.”

Bengaluru have a good crop of Indian players in their squad and when asked how he evaluates them, the Spaniard said, “I am happy with their attitude. I know they can make errors but also they can learn. All foreigners are at a very good level. I know what they give to the Indian players. It’s also something to see how important the collaboration is. It’s just not one side. Some Indian players like Sunil (Chhetri) can also play in other places. Those that are younger, they will always take advantage of this.”

The 55-year old also shared his insights on why he thinks luck plays a factor in football. “Well, there is always some luck. Sometimes you play better than the other team and you don’t score and one mistake and things can change completely. Luck is important in football. We have to find more luck than others. We are trying to reduce the luck of the other teams and increase our possibilities,” he concluded.