Pune FC eyes defending champions Dempo SC irregular form to gain places on the I-League table at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi, here on Thursday.
Eager to forget the last round result (2-2) against Shillong Lajong FC, Pune FC aims for a positive performance in Round-21.
Pune FC Coach, Derrick Perreira says, "It's nice to play against a team that plays good football. They play a nice passing game and are an experienced side."
The Goans, with 2 points from their last 4 League matches, seem an unsettled unit ahead of the clash providing enough reason for Pune FC to step up the pressure.
Compounding matters for Dempo SC are with injuries and suspensions to key players.
Defender Mahesh Gawli (injured) and Rowilson Rodrigues (suspended) would mean ex-Pune FC defender Selwyn Fernandes starting, along with on-loan Arrows defender Prathamesh Maulingkar.
Likewise, top-scorer Ryuji Sueoka misses action after picking up injury in the last match. However, in Nigerian Koko Sakibo, Liberian Johnny Menyongar, and India striker Joaquim Abranches (who like Koko has 6 goals and is the 2nd highest Indian goal-scorer), the Goans possess quality replacements in attack.
Dempo's midfield, always a goal-threat, will be at full-strength. Current India players; Clifford Miranda (5 goals), Anthony Pereira (2), Climax Lawrence (1) and Peter Carvalho (4) form one of the best midfields in the country. Another ex-Pune FC player Godwin Franco provides an option.
"They do have a quality midfield," agreed the Pune FC Coach.
With a host of positives loaded in favour of Pune FC, fact is that ever since Rohan Ricketts' release, Dempo SC no longer possesses the sting they showed initially this season. Also stacking up against Dempo is winning only 9 points from 8 games outside Goa.
Coach added, "I am hoping that we gain from the advantages that collectively favour us."
At Balewadi, Dempo have only managed 1 point in their 2 games in 2012-13. Interestingly on their last visit they lost 1-2 to Air-India.
For the hosts, once again, Velington Rocha is the only absentee due to injury, while the squad has been further strengthened by the addition of the Under-20 players who're back from Jamshedpur.
Having won the first-leg encounter by a whopping 5-1 result, Pune FC will expect to take heart from that game and push for the advantage.
"We did have a good match in Goa and the result was equally good. By the grace of God we will get good result tomorrow as well," Pune FC Coach adds.
Both teams have clashed 9 times and so far Pune FC has the balance tilted in their favour with 5 victories.
However, in Pune the history of the fixture is balanced. Both teams share a win each apart from a draw. Interestingly, both Pune FC and Dempo have never played goal-less games and only the hosts boast of one clean-sheet in the past 4 seasons.
While goals have been regular, most India internationals have been regular and heavy scorers in this fixture. Pune FC's playmaker Arata Izumi in particular has 7 goals in the 9 games against the defending champions. Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua too has netted thrice.
Additionally, James Moga (2) and Douhou Pierre too added their names to the Pune FC goal-scorers in this fixture, when they scored in the 5-1 record-thumping in December 2012.
Likewise, for Dempo, Clifford (3), Anthony (2), Peter and Joaquim (once each), have breached the Pune FC citadel.
Pune FC go into the game with two changes to the squad that played last. Pune FC Under-19 skipper Nikhil Kadam. The other change includes, defender Caitano Costa replacing Zohmingliana Ralte after the latter took a knock on the ankle during practice.Â Â Â
For Pune FC the game assumes importance in view of breaking into the Top-3, something they had an opportunity with in the last round and will certainly not want to slip by this time.
Add the advantage of having a couple of matches yet to be complete, the opportunity to close the gap on the leading duo of Churchill Brothers and East Bengal could'nt get better.
On the last match, the Coach added, "The whole idea is to avoid making silly mistakes like in the last match. Several individual mistakes led to us conceded soft goals."
"I would rather take matches match by match, rather than base the team's run on other results," the Coach signed off.