Derrick Pereira may find it difficult to explain the reasons for Pune FC’s mid-season slump after having done so well till the turn of the New Year. But as his boys get ready to face Mumbai FC for the Round 20 match, he would simply want a win and be on the high before the traditional 40-day-odd break in the I-League Football championship.
Though Pune FC would be playing the backlog of two matches before the league reopens on March 24, the Saturday’s match is crucial in terms of instilling confidence after suffering three losses in four matches.
Mumbai FC have 26 points from 18 matches and occupy the sixth position, while Pune FC, which has played 17 matches, are at No. 5 with 30 points.
As the teams get ready to play second ‘Maha derby’ of the season, the equations have changed dramatically. At the start of the season Pune FC was more confident while Mumbai struggled to perform as a unit. With time, ‘host’ Mumbai are now in a better mental position given that they have lost just one match since the reverse fixtures began.
The loss against East Bengal is the only blemish on their 2013 card in which the Khalid Jamil’s side have beaten Prayag United while drawing against top clubs – Churchill Brothers and defending champion Dempo SC.
In fact, in the last round, Mumbai FC almost pulled off a coup when they led for most part of the match thanks to goals from ND Opara and Evans Quao. But Peter Carvalho scored four minutes from the end of the regulation time and Koko Sakibo fired with a minute to go to give Dempo a draw.
Otherwise, Mumbai dominated and there is no reason why Mumbai cannot repeat the same show on the morrow when they host Pune FC at the Balewadi Sports Complex ground. Under the bar, Luis Baretto was exceptional, but for those two goals Dempo scored.
Upfront Gabriel Fernandes and Yusif Yakubu have done whole lot of good for the team. Nicholas Rodrigues and Subhash Chakraborty have been supplementing Fernandes and Yakubu, something that Jamil would expect on the morrow on a turf where Mumbai FC has done exceptionally well off late.
As for Pune FC, the team needs to come together. If losing against Prayag United and East Bengal was accepted as “better team won”, the loss against Salgaocar FC in the last round was a bitter result.
Defender Gurjinder Singh picked up second yellow and the subsequent red card meant he would be sitting out for the Mumbai FC encounter on Saturday. Jeje Lalpekhlua was shadow of his former self, while midfielder Izumi Arata, who was picked for the national side, was in his own zone.
All of them will have to put their heads together and get on with the job at hand. In the forward-line, James Moga had been off-colour and started from the bench against Salgaocar, but Jeje was no different. Douhou Pierre remains the key player, but he has been hampered by lack of support from the front-liners.