FC Pune City dugout will miss the scowling, screaming presence of Antonio Habas for the Hero ISL 2016 opener against Mumbai City FC on Monday. >The Spaniard is serving a four-match suspension, enforced by the AIFF Disciplinary Committee for aggressive behavior in last season’s concluding tie.
Fellow countryman Miguel will be in charge till then. Habas’ absence is not a surprise for the home team getting ready for a new season with a new side at Balewadi sports complex. “We knew coach will not be on the pitch,” reasoned the FCPC deputy coach.
Key midfielder Arata Izumi also echoed the deputy coach. “He will not be there, but teams under him show discipline on the ground. There is a gameplan and we are expected to execute it," said Izumi, whol was under the Spaniard at Atletico de Kolkata last season.
>Marquee signing Mohamed Sissoko, who landed in Pune Sunday morning, trained with the entire squad, but is not expected to be part of the Maharashtra derby. “He is available for selection. I cannot say if he will play or not,” said Miguel, who also said he is happy with the bonding in the group, who trained together during their pre-season in Madrid.
Alexandre Guimaraes, head coach in the rival camp, also expressed satisfaction with the players in hand. “Whether it is the locals or foreigners, the understanding of what I want from them is the same,” said the Costa Rican, in charge of a new-look Mumbai City. He was answering a question on the difference, if any, noticed between the foreigners and domestic talent.
Diego Forlan, the biggest name in ISL season three, is winning admirers, among whom is India winger Jackichand Singh. “Forlan guided us during the camp and would correct our mistakes,” said Singh, who switched over from FC Pune City to Mumbai City after his debut season in ISL.
“Changing clubs is becoming common for players, my job is to give 100 percent for my team,” he added.
Guimaraes insisted on a translation of Jackichand’s replies in Hindi. When the talk turned to Forlan, the coach pointed out that the three-time World Cupper from Uruguay had developed a liking for the nippy Indian, whose pace down the flanks and shooting skill won him adoring Pune fans.
The home team is without influential Eugeneson Lyngdoh, while Mumbai will be without striker Sunil Chhetri and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh.
The three players are away with Bengaluru FC for AFC Cup. Both ISL state rivals assembled an impressive line-up with mighty reputations, look formidable on paper, but match fitness is another matter. Last season, Pune City ended seventh while Mumbai City was sixth.
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