Today’s hosts have been struggling in their own den while their opponents are in the midst of another miserable campaign.
FC Pune City play host to NorthEast United FC in Indian Super League (ISL) at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Saturday. The Stallions come off the back of a 2 – 0 victory over FC Goa, where they inflicted a first home defeat on them while also preventing the Gaurs from scoring for the first time this season. Head coach Ranko Popovic, however, has been banned for four matches, so speaking to the media during the pre-match press conference was Stallions’ assistant coach Vladica Grujic.
Pune does not have a good home record this season, having lost both of their previous home fixtures, but the team was not focusing on that too much. “We have lost the last two games at home,” Grujic said. “But the opponent has only had one or two shots at goal. But I think the team is improving every day. We don’t have to think about what’s happened before; we just have to play our best.”
He also reckoned the Highlanders have been unlucky so far, but Pune would be in no mood to give them any leeway at home. “North East have four points, but normally they should be having more points with a bit more luck,” the Serbian opined. “We have shown in the last game how compact we are, and I think tomorrow is the time to win the game at home.”
Before wrapping up, he mentioned that their training will surely pay dividends in their match against NorthEast. “We are satisfied with the way the team is training. I am sure tomorrow, we will demonstrate good football to our fans and we must win and get three points,” he concluded.
The Highlanders are on a poor run of form, having managed to win only one of their six encounters this season and are currently reeling from three consecutive defeats.
Speaking to the media during the pre-match press conference was the visitor’s head coach Joao de Deus, who was clear about what needed to be done.“I’m looking to win this,” he stated. “More importantly, we need to first score and second, not give the bonus that we gave in the last three games.”
He further explained how different his team is when compared to the others, “You saw our games. If you saw, you see an organized team. You see a team that defends well. If you remove the game in Chennai, in that game we played with a guy with fever. He was in a very bad condition and one of the goals was an own goal. Other than that match, you can see a team that generate a lot of chances because this is an organized team. It is an organized team because the players grasp the concepts.”
The Portuguese was also wary of the threat Pune posed and highlighted their counter-attacking and defensive abilities. “This team (FC Pune City) is a team with quality,” he said. “We have two guys who do counter-attack well, which is the strongest point of the team. It is easier to counter-attack away than home. If you pay attention to the last game, they were brave, they defended well. They took two-three counter attacks to score. So, that can be an explanation for that performance.”
Before concluding, Deus was asked whether NorthEast were paying the price for not retaining Emiliano Alfaro, who will be playing against his former team for the first time on Saturday. “That is the question that I cannot answer,” he replied. “The media knows the cost of Alfaro. Alfaro is a quality player. My job is to develop my players and make them play well and score goals.”