Pune: Pune FC will take on Churchill Brothers SC when the two teams meet in 25th I League clash at the Balewadi Sports Complex Stadium on Sunday. Pune team couldn’t have hoped for a better position going into the final stages of the I-League football championship, but rather than being happy about it, the home side will do well to keep its focus intact and look to score points against Churchill.
Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua is back from injury, which is a good news for Pune FC, but whether he makes it to the starting line-up entirely depends on coach Derrick Pereira, who is expected to take a call on Sunday. Jeje, however, is in the scheme of things as he has been named in the squad of 18 in place of Paresh Shivalkar.
Another plus for Pune FC is return of Anas Edathodika, who was out due to double bookings. He will replace NS Manju in the defence line, which needs to be strong to hold back Churchill’s onslaughts.
With 43 points, Pune FC has two rounds—against Salgaocar SC and Mohun Bagan—remaining making Derrick Pereira’s task all the more difficult. Churchill with 41 points is at their heels and it would be anybody’s game with only three rounds remaining in the season.
While the battle for the I-League title seems to be over with Dempo SC touching 50 and seven points clear of the challengers, the fight for No 2 spot has become livelier. East Bengal, who has played a game less than Pune FC is at 41, something that the Pune team should keep an eye on. One bad match and the team can go tumbling down the ladder.
Among the top teams, Pune FC has an enviable record of five wins on the trot, something even Dempo has not been able to manage. That kind of statistics should give the team strength to carry on with its campaign that has been exemplary to say the least.
In head-to-head too, Pune FC has clear edge over the Goan team—having beaten them in an away tie 2-0 last December. While the spoils were shared in the 2010-11 season with each team winning in away matches, Pune FC had scored 4-0 in their maiden season at home.
With Subrata Paul doing duty under the bar gives Pune FC much confidence, it is the presence of Otthallo Tabia and Caitano Costa in the defence line that makes the home team aim for wins against tougher opponents.
By Indian Sports News Network