Desperate Pune wary of confident NorthEast

A defeat for Ranko Popovic’s side here would also give teams like Jamshedpur FC and FC Goa, who are hot on Pune’s heels, the scope to sneak into the last four.

FC Pune City players in training ahead of their match against NorthEast United FC.   -  ISL Media

Smarting from the home defeat to Kerala Blasters, FC Pune City will be wary in its travel to Guwahati for its match against NorthEast United in an all-important Hero Indian Super League game on Wednesday. Pune badly needs to win this one to arrest its downward slide from the top four.

A defeat for Ranko Popovic’s side here would also give teams like Jamshedpur FC and FC Goa, who are hot on Pune’s heels, the scope to sneak into the last four.

It will be interesting to see whether that happens, but Pune would like to take heart from its 5-0 thumping of the Highlanders in their last encounter. Another heartening aspect is that though Pune has lost more games (five) than any other side in the top four, it has lost only once on the road. 

"Their position on the table is not what reflects their quality," Pune's assistant coach Vladica Grujic said about its opponent which is ninth on the table of 10 teams. Stressing on the point Grujic pointed out the club's 2-2 draw against FC Goa in its last match. "They have a new coach and are developing game after game. So they are in fact a very difficult opponent," Grujic said. 

"The fact that they are playing without pressure, compared to those which are fighting for the top four, is something very very dangerous for us," the Serbian added.

As for the NorthEast coach Avram Grant, he was honest about how he wants his side to be a thorn for every other team.

"For us every game is important and we are playing teams who are above us or in the top four. It is difficult, but our target is to be difficult for the other teams. Our last game was a good one because we came back from goals down twice in the game," added the coach.

NorthEast is mathematically still in with a chance of making it to the top four but Grant said the focus is on the match in hand.

"The paper belongs to the paper, but the pitch belongs to us. We are far behind but the first job is to play the way we are playing, and as far as the result is concerned, whatever is to happen, will happen. We are not thinking too much about that [making the top four]," said Grant under whom NorthEast has won two, lost two and drawn one in its last five games. But deep down even Grant realizes that the team will certainly need to aim for maximum points at home to stand any chance of reaching the semifinals.

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