The hosts have had a season to forget and that is even more true for their home form.
FC Pune City will look to put aside their loss to Kerala Blasters last week as they prepare to face NorthEast United in an all-important Hero Indian Super League game in Guwahati tomorrow. Pune badly needs to win this one to arrest their downward slide from the top four. A defeat for Ranko Popovic’s side here would also give teams like Jamshedpur FC and FC Goa, who are hot on Pune’s heels, the scope to sneak into the last four.
It will be interesting to see whether that happens, but Pune would like to take heart from their 5-0 thumping of the Highlanders in their last encounter. Another heartening aspect is that though Pune have lost more games (five) than any other side in the top four, they have lost only once on the road.
“Their position on the table is not what reflects their quality,” Pune’s assistant coach Vladica Grujic said about their opponents which is ninth on the table of 10 teams. Stressing on the point Grujic pointed out their 2-2 draw against FC Goa in their last match. “They have a new coach and are developing game after game. So they are in fact a very difficult opponent,” Grujic said.
“The fact that they are playing without pressure, compared to those which are fighting for the top four, is something very very dangerous for us,” the Serbian added.
As for the NorthEast coach Avram Grant, he was honest about how he wants his side to be a thorn for every other team.
“For us every game is important and we are playing teams who are above us or in the top four. It is difficult, but our target is to be difficult for the other teams. Our last game was a good one because we came back from goals down twice in the game,” added the coach.
NorthEast are mathematically still in with a chance of making it to the top four but Grant said the focus is on the match in hand.
“The paper belongs to the paper, but the pitch belongs to us. We are far behind but the first job is to play the way we are playing, and as far as the result is concerned, whatever is to happen, will happen. We are not thinking too much about that [making the top four],” said Grant under whom NorthEast have won two, lost two and drawn one in their last five games. But deep down even Grant realizes that the team will certainly need to aim for maximum points at home to stand any chance of reaching the semifinals.
NorthEast United FC 3 – 3 FC Pune City (1 draws).
Marcinho (NorthEast United FC)
The Brazilian has been the main initiator of attacks for the Highlanders. He has cut open the opposition defence frequently and possesses clinical finishing skills. A good dribbler of the ball, the 31-year-old has four goals and an assist to his name and will look to inspire his side to a win at home.
Diego Carlos (FC Pune City)
The winger has been a key figure on the flanks for the Stallions. He has used his pace to good effect and has been efficient in cutting in and taking his chances, as well as providing incisive crosses. The 29-year-old has a goal and an assist to his name this season and will play a key role when his team visits Guwahati.
Avram Grant will probably field a 4-2-3-1 formation, hoping to utilize their midfield and flanks to good effect.
Goalkeeper: TP Rehenesh
Defenders: Nirmal Chettri, Jose Goncalves, Sambinha, Reagan Singh
Midfielders: John Mosquera, Rowllin Borges, Seiminlen Doungel, Marcinho, Halicharan Narzary
Forward: Danilo Lopes
Highlanders head coach on the team’s mentality and approach to the game: “We need to do our job on the pitch. It’s not easy because we are far behind, but we first need to do our job. We need to continue to play the football that we played in the last games. Also, we need to win games and then what will happen will happen. We want to win the next game.”
FC Pune City
Ranko Popovic may counter with his own 4-2-3-1 formation, with Emiliano Alfaro spearheading the Stallions’ attack.
Goalkeeper: Vishal Kaith
Defenders: Sarthak Golui, Gurtej Singh, Rafael Lopez, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai
Midfielders: Diego Carlos, Adil Khan, Jonatan Lucca, Marcelinho, Ashique Kuruniyan
Forward: Emiliano Alfaro
Stallions assistant coach Vladica Grujic on the opponents: “In the last match, NorthEast played against one of the best teams in the league and they drew. They may be at the bottom of the table, but we know they are a very strong team. I expect a very difficult opponent tomorrow.”
- Neither teams have ever made it to the playoffs of Hero ISL
- Pune have never beaten NorthEast in Guwahati
FC Pune City 5 – 0 NorthEast United FC (30th December 2017 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Pune)
NorthEast United FC: D L W L W
FC Pune City: L W W L D