ISL: Pune City face the NorthEast juggernaut
A resurgent FC Pune City, buoyed by their new found attacking prowess, are now looking at changing the game plan in the ongoing edition of Indian Super League (ISL) as they get ready to take on next opponent NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) at Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Tuesday.
Even though it seems quite unlikely given the competition and the current points position among the present top four, Pune with only five points from eight matches, are hoping to turn the fortunes with a good run of results to propel them further in contention for a play-off spot.
However, the international break seems to have helped Pune get some semblance into their season as they finally managed to register their first win by downing Jamshedpur FC last week at home. The Stallions have also been boosted with the signing of star striker Iain Hume, who coming out of a long injury showed flashes of brilliance in his brief time on the field.
On the wings, Ashique Kuruniyan has been in sublime form for the home side and has troubled the opposition defenders with his pace and dribbling skills. Pune's coach Pradyum Reddy will hope that Marcelinho can get back to his best as when the Brazilian is on song, he can penetrate any defence at will.
Reddy has vowed to take the game to NEUFC and will be hoping his star forwards trouble the Highlanders.
"We tried in a couple of games before the break to go with a more conservative approach and it didn't necessarily get us the results that we wanted. With the attacking options that we have in our squad, I think it is best for us to go with more of an attacking mindset because we need to get three points," Reddy said.
"If you look at the way the league table is now, we need to get closer to Kerala, the team immediately above us (in seventh). We have to have that kind of an attacking mindset," he added.
NorthEast United, on the other hand, won a thriller against Kerala Blasters with two goals in injury time. The win last week would have further boosted their confidence and belief that they can qualify for the play-offs for the very first time in five seasons.
Interestingly, unlike the seasons gone by, NorthEast have a mean defence and have only conceded eight goals from seven games. This has given a lot of teeth to their forwards. Bartholomew Ogbeche has scored seven goals and is very much in the race for the Golden Boot alongside Ferran Corominas (8) and Sunil Chhetri (5).
"Pune are under more pressure than us. We need to maintain where we are and (meet) expectations and Pune need to climb up. It will be an interesting game," NEUFC coach Eelco Schattorie stated.
"Pune have a squad with a lot of individual quality. They have some really good individual players that can make a difference. The weakness of Pune, for me, is very clear and hopefully, we can exploit them," he added.-IANS