Pune FC will be eager to extend their 10-match unbeaten run when they take on Sporting Clube de Goa in a crucial I-League Round-8 encounter at the Duler Stadium, Mapusa in Goa on Saturday.
The only undefeated side in the ongoing season (2013-14), Pune FC’s unbeaten run stretches from last season and includes nine wins and a draw.
The game will also be Pune FC’s first visit to the coastal state this season which will be followed by two more trips later in this month. Goa – one of the visitors’ happy-hunting grounds – has seen Pune FC secure nine wins in fifteen I-League games over four seasons.
The visitors go into the game in good form after three consecutive home wins and are currently second in the table behind Salgaocar with 13 points from five games. However, a result with maximum points against Sporting with the correct margin will propel Pune FC to the top spot.
Headed by Spanish Coach Oscar Bruzon, Sporting – a free flowing side – have scored in each of their six league games so far and currently sit two places below Pune FC in the fourth place with 10 points.
The hosts’ have added more Spanish flavour bringing in medio Arturo Navarro and defender Gonzalo Neila into the squad. They, along with long-serving Nigerian medio Ogba Kalu and Pratesh Shirodkar continue to drive the team.
On the other hand, the Goans will be missing services of former Pune FC striker and currently their top-scorer Boima Karpeh who picked up a late red card in their 1-3 loss to Mohammedan SC in the last game at Duler.
Sporting, however, have options to replace him upfront; with current India international Dawson Fernandes and the pacy Victorino Fernandes out to prove themselves.
The North-Goan outfit will be a tough nut to crack for the in-form visitors, as they look to bounce back from their previous round loss in the hot and humid conditions on the artificial turf at Duler.
Even though it will be Pune FC’s first competitive game at Duler, they do have experience of the venue, having played a pre-season friendly here earlier in the season. Also the fact that the visitors have notched six wins in their past eight visits to Goa will definitely boost their morale.
On the team news front, new signing Mustapha Riga is all set to make his debut for Pune FC. Having missed the last game due to paperwork issues, the Dutch national will now hope to hit the ground running.
The visitors’ attack spearheaded by Riga, James Meyer, Douhou Pierre and Nikhil Kadam will be looking to breach the defence which has managed to keep only two clean-sheets until now while conceding eight goals in six games so far.
In previous three meetings against Sporting in Goa, Pune FC have scored two goals on each occasion. The results however, have been a mixed affair, with a win, a loss and a draw in three seasons so far.
For the visitors, midfielders Arata Izumi and Douhou Pierre have netted in the past against the Goans, while Kalu and Dawson have netted against Pune FC in Sporting colours.
In six meeting so far, Pune FC have only lost once while logging two wins and three draws against Sporting. A win on the morrow will not only strengthen their record against the hosts but also fortify their overall record in Goa.
A positive result against Sporting will also help Pune FC match their longest-ever unbeaten streak off 11 matches (24/11/2011 to 28/01/2012 – Season 2011-12) giving them a chance of extending it further.
Pune FC (2nd, 13 pts): W-W-W-D-W
Sporting Clube de Goa (4th, 10 pts): L-W-W-W-L
20/01/13 – IL – Pune FC 0-0 Sporting Goa at Pune
26/11/12 – IL – Sporting Goa 1-2 Pune FC at Goa
01/02/12 – IL – Sporting Goa 4-2 Pune FC at Goa
28/10/11 – IL – Pune FC 2-2 Sporting Goa at Pune
09/05/10 – IL – Pune FC 4-0 Sporting Goa at Pune
17/10/09 – IL – Sporting Club 2-2 Pune FC at Goa