Pune FC run into the relatively unknown Eagles SC and seeks the decent past record in Kerala to hold well in their 35th Federation Cup opener at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, on Tuesday.
Two wins and a draw from three I-League games played in the past is a positive, but the one thing Pune FC will hope to avoid is complacency.
Playing in their fifth Federation Cup (including a qualifying round in 2008), Pune FC also have their sight set on moving into the knockout stage for the first-time ever.
Moreover, with the AFC Champions League (Play-off) coming up later this month, the tournament provides the perfect build up for Coach Mike Snoei.
Kerala-based Eagles FC guided by Stanley Rosario, on-paper work out to be a competitive side with a mix of experience and a host of local players. In fact, the Kerala side very recently strengthened their squad with thirteen loan-signings from IMG-Reliance.
Add home support, first-ever big match and rubbing shoulders with the best in the country raise expectations of a challenge.
Among the recent loan signings Eagles SC made a week back, Sushil Kumar Singh, Ong Lepcha, M. Subhas Singh, Chitrasen Singh and Gouranga Biswas turn out to be players carrying experience.
The quintet joins other loan singings Nadong Bhutia, Bijendra Rai, Avinabo Bag, Jagroop Singh, Bisheshwor Singh, Biswajit Saha, Ramandeep Singh and Govin Singh who joined in December.
Eagles also boast of some Indian top-flight experience through ex-Dempo SC player Koko Sakibo (Nigeria) and ex-Viva Kerala player Charles Dzisah (Ghana). The duo is joined by former Josco FC player Emmanuel.
Eagles who will also play in the I-League second division this season, recently finished runners-up in the Kerala State Championship.
Pune FC, who landed on Saturday and had two sessions at the venue, has a fully fit squad for selection. The fresh recruits – defender Zeeshan Rahman and attacker Gabriel Fernandes – who were signed by Pune FC on January 11, 2014 joined the 18-man squad at Kochi to complete the final 20-man squad eligible to play the Federation Cup.
With all four foreigners defender Calum Angus, medio Douhou Pierre, winger-striker James Meyer and striker Mustapha Riga amidst the squad, Pune FC hope to get off to a winning start.
Overall, Pune FC have scored seven goals in Kerala in the past, out of which three have been contributed by medio Arata Izumi, while conceding just one.
Having played their last match at the stadium, Pune FC will seek to extend the winning momentum into another game. The last game Pune FC played was against home-side Chirag Kerala and walked out 3-0 victors.
On Tuesday, Pune FC will be keen for a similar result and not take the rivals lightly.
FORM RUN (Last 5 I-League matches)
Pune FC: L-W-L-L-D
OVERALL RECORD IN KERALA (I-LEAGUE)
01/04/12 – Chirag United Kerala 0-3 Pune FC at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi
12/12/10 – Viva Kerala 1-1 Pune FC at Muncipal Jawahar Stadium, Kannur
24/01/10 – Viva Kerala 0-3 Pune FC at Municipal Corporation Stadium, Calicut