The Stallions are looking forward to facing a youthful Lajong side.
Hero Indian Super League semi-finalists FC Pune City are ‘smart enough and intelligent’ to swing the tie against Shillong Lajong FC when they face the Highlanders in the Hero Super Cup Round of 16 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday.
The Serbian coach reminded also that they ‘have to be top of the game’ to get the better of the ‘young and smart’ Shillong Lajong FC.
“It is a completely different competition. We had an amazing season having finished in the semifinals of Hero ISL. This is going be a key battle on the pitch tomorrow. We have to stay motivated to get the result in our way.”
“I believe, we are enough smart and intelligent to get the job done. Meanwhile, we have a fair knowledge of their credentials and we know how much damage they can do. We have to absolutely at the top of our game to proceed further”, the 50-year-old coach added.
On being asked whether FC Pune City will kick-off as the favourites tomorrow, Popovic brushed it aside, “We have big respect for them. The league standing is not important and it’s history now. A team always pushes their limits when there is only one match to prove their mettle.”
“Lajong has a perfect blend of young as well as experienced players. On the other hand, what made us strong this season is our collective team effort. We’ll stick to our philosophy to overcome our next hurdle”, Popovic analysed their opponents in front of the media.
“We want to thanks our amazing fans for supporting us throughout. We had the best season in our club’s history and now we want to make it memorable winning this trophy. We want to give something back to the supporters and this one is the perfect occasion to get it done”, he showed his gratitude towards the FC Pune City fans.
Astute defender Adil Khan who had a sublime season also reiterated the same, There’s always a chance to make a comeback in the league. But, in the cup competition, you have to be mentally strong. We want to settle it within 90 minutes only. We know how fast and energetic they are. They’ll come strong on us. As coach said, we want to win the trophy for our fans.”
Shillong Lajong interim coach Alison Kharsyntiew sees this a ‘great exposure’ for the young bunch of players and expressed that they are positively looking forward to nothing less than a win.
“It’s a great opportunity to test ourselves against a team like FC Pune City. We have built our team with a young bunch of players. It’s a great opportunity for them to gain experience and a good exposure as well. We’re looking forward to nothing less than a win tomorrow”, the coach sounded confident ahead of the enticing tie.
Meanwhile, the heat and the humidity of Bhubaneswar might take a toll on the Lajong players and that’s what giving Alison a sleepless night.
“Yes, the heat and the humidity is an issue. But, we are here to compete and we’re working hard to put up a good fight. We are not here to give lame excuses.”
“We are putting extra effort into maintaining the fitness level throughout. Nutrition and hydration are very important to combat the humidity and we’re taking care of those aspects”, the Lajong asst. coach mentioned.
Daniel Odafin has been a vital cog in the Lajong setup this season and the Nigerian defender is determined to churn out a win to stay alive in the tournament.
“We had worked pretty hard for last two weeks. We want a win desperately. We are here to give our best to seal a win tomorrow.”
The sixth match of the Hero Super Cup Round of 16 is scheduled at 8 PM and it’ll be telecast on Star Sports 2/2 HD/1 Tamil and streamed live on Hotstar and Jio TV.