The Stallions have blown hot and and cold this season and now have the Men of Steel hot on their heels.
FC Pune City have been consistent with their attacking show in the fourth edition of Hero Indian Super League and are now on the edge of moving to the top of the table, should they manage to to get past the defense of Jamshedpur FC at the Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Pune, on Wednesday.
FC Pune City have 19 points from 11 matches and are placed third at the moment. However a favourable result at home can help them jump two places, above Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC. That would be good return for a team with so much of attacking talent at its disposal and coach Ranko Popovic, who will be seen back at the touchline after the four-match suspension, feels they deserve their place among the best.
Ironically, it were the defeats against Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC at home that held them back, although Popovic has no doubts that they were the better side in both games.
“We have played some good games here. If we consider only the result, then its different,” Popovic said during the pre-match media interaction when it was put to him that Pune City have lost three times at home.
“We’ve played nice, good and organised football. Until the red card, we were the better team (against Bengaluru FC); they didn’t have a shot on goal. Chennai shot once in the first half from outside the box and won 1-0,” added the Serbian coach.
Jamshedpur FC coach Steve Coppell admits that their Wednesday’s opponent is among the most feared, particularly star striker Marcelinho, who walked away with the Golden Boot award last season and now already has six goals and five assists from nine outings.
“They have some strong players from the attacking sense, some good players. We cannot hide that fact. We have to do our best to deal with that and at the same time make them do some work going the other way,” said Coppell.
Coppell took Kerala Blasters to the final last season and only lost on penalties against ATK. With Jamshedpur, who are making their debut, he has still not made it to the top four but the coach remains pleased with the team’s progress.
“Absolutely delighted that we are on Pune City’s coat-tails,” said Coppell, pointing out that they are just three points behind their Wednesday rivals after 11 matches.
Jamshedpur are placed fifth with 16 points from 11 matches and can move to the top four group of the table with a victory here.
The competition for playoff spots has been tough, but Coppell feels, “It’s open for a lot of teams to make the top four and we are one of the pack, looking up enviously.”
Jamshedpur FC 0 – 1 FC Pune City
Adil Khan-FC Pune City: The Stallions’ midfield engine has been one of the most versatile players in the league this season. His attacking prowess has been as commendable as his defensive duties. The 29-year-old wins most of his aerial duels and is always a big threat while attacking set-pieces. Khan’s tally of four goals in nine matches is particularly impressive seeing that he mostly plays the holding role in Pune’s midfield; he will play a big role in Pune’s fixture.
Trindade Goncalves-Jamshedpur FC: The Brazilian has been one of the most effective players in the middle of the park for Jamshedpur. He initiates numerous attacks in every match, and his pace keeps all the defenders on their toes. The 21-year-old has bagged three goals for his team including the winner in Jamshedpur’s last game against Delhi Dynamos FC, and while on the attack, he manages a few good shots on goal as well. Goncalves will look to inspire Jamshedpur to a victory against a dangerous Pune attack.
Steve Coppell may use a 4-2-3-1 formation that would provide versatility in the middle and on the flanks.
Goalkeeper: Subrata Paul
Defenders: Souvik Chakrabarti, Anas Edathodika, Tiri, Andre Bikey
Midfielders: Mehtab Hossain, Memo, Wellington Priori, Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Farukh Choudhary
Forward: Izu Azuka
Jamshedpur FC head coach Steve Coppell on the style of football his team adheres to: “We try to play attacking football as much as we can. We try to hurt teams and if that means not having the lion share of the ball and we counterattack quickly, so be it.”
FC Pune City
Ranko Popovic will probably field a 4-2-3-1 formation, too, 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
- Pune has scored the second-highest number of goals in the season so far, while Jamshedpur has conceded the least.
Jamshedpur FC 0 – 1 FC Pune City (10th December 2017 at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur)
Form Guide (Last five matches)
Jamshedpur FC: W W L D L
FC Pune City: W L D W W