Alfaro, Marcelinho key to Pune's chances against Bengaluru FC

FC Pune City's strike duo of Marcelino and Emiliano Alfaro can expect to receive special attention from the stern Bengaluru FC defence when the two teams, equal on points, do battle in the Indian Super League match at the Belawadi Stadium on Thursday.

Emiliano Alfaro (L) and Marcelinho will be looking to return to scoring ways in their home match against Bengaluru FC.   -  PTI

FC Pune City's striking duo of Marcelino and Emiliano Alfaro appear to be one of the most effective pairs during the ongoing season of the Indian Super League. The tricky Brazilian and the opportunistic Uruguayan score goals and set up chances for teammates in tandem.

Attention from the opponent backline does not affect them, though space to operate in is reduced while coming up against tight defences. Bengaluru FC is the next challenge for the duo at the Balewadi Stadium.

Albert Roca, the BFC coach said: “We have studied Alfaro and Marcelinho a lot, seen videos to devise a way to stop them. They are good players, we are ready though we had a short time to prepare for this game. One error can cost a lot in the end, we are aware how difficult it is to stop these kind of players.”

FCPC and BFC have nine points each from their five and four matches played respectively, and face-off in a night game.

Roca is anticipating a tough game. “They are at the same level and it is going to be difficult. Pune City has enough experience, looking at the players and the coach, to put us in trouble.”

Ranko Popovic displayed enthusiasm, despite his team losing two matches in front of their home fans(against Delhi Dynamos and Chennaiyin FC). “We should be the favourites when playing at home and have a job to do,” said the Serbian.

Pune City did not concede any goals in its away win against Jamshedpur FC. “The team is more organized than before. Our problem is that we always have some last-minute problems with injuries and illnesses. We cannot field the same XI.”

Defender Lalchhuanmawia Fanai is out serving a suspension. Gani Ahmed and Sahil Panwar, two players promoted to the main squad from the reserves, are available for the BFC match.

Popovic appreciated the qualities of BFC. “Bengaluru is a wonderful team, very strong with good individual players. They started a bit early and had more matches than us. It’s one big test for us,"Popovic pointed out.

Lalthuanmmawia Ralte, drafted in following the suspension of first-choice custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, may be kept busy in goal by the FCPC forwardline. Raising the performance level in pressure situations has been the Mizo’s hallmark. Ralte came out unscathed when he was put into the firing line against NorthEast United last Friday. Bengaluru will hope that he produces similar heroics.

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