Portugal and Pune...how will the mix be?

Having parted ways with Spanish midfielder Marcos Tebar, the club has announced contract extensions for Emiliano Alfaro — the club’s top scorer last season with nine goals — and Marcelinho, who scored eight.

Iain Hume is the most experienced and prolific of all ISL players.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Last season, FC Pune City finished fourth in the league and qualified for the play-offs for the first time in its history, but lost 3-1 (aggregate) to Indian Super Cup winner Bengaluru FC. The team’s playing style centred around its Argentine striker Emiliano Alfaro and Brazilian winger Marcelinho, averaging 408 passes and a league-low 10 crosses per game.

Having parted ways with Spanish midfielder Marcos Tebar, the Indian Super League club has announced contract extensions for Alfaro — the club’s top scorer last season with nine goals — and Marcelinho. The pair scored 17 of the club’s 31 goals last season and will be looking to take the club through the play-offs this time.

Miguel Angel Portugal, the ex-Real Madrid player and Real Madrid Castilla coach, takes over as the club’s coach this season. He replaces Marcos Paqueta, who left the club without managing a single game. Portugal’s previous stint in the ISL was an underwhelming 2017-18 season with the Delhi Dynamos, finishing eighth.

The new signings among Indians are Gabriel Fernandes, Shankar Sampingiraj, Robin Singh, Nikhil Poojari, Alwyn George, Keenan Almeida and Ashutosh Mehta. The foreigners to come in are Iain Hume, Martín Diaz, Matt Mills and Jonathan Vila.

The club stayed back in India for its pre-season. With Goa as its base, it played Salgaocar, Dempo, FC Goa’s development side and Churchill Brothers Goa, losing against the first two, drawing with the third and winning the last encounter.

The club begins the new season with an away game against Delhi Dynamos on October 3.

Player to watch

There are few players who are more familiar with the league than Iain Hume. His 28 goals in the highest in the league till date and his 59 appearances, across three seasons, is the most by any player in the competition. Pune will be the 34-year-old’s third ISL club and will expect him to play a key role as it aims for its maiden ISL title — though he will not be registered until he is declared fit to play. This is, however, Hume’s fourth ISL season as he has turned out twice for Kerala Blasters.

The Squad

Goalkeepers: Kamaljit Singh, Vishal Kaith and Anuj Kumar.

Defenders: Ashutosh Mehta, Gurtej Singh, Sahil Panwar, Matt Mills, Sarthak Golui, Keenan Almeida, Lalchhuanmawia and Martín Díaz.

Midfielders: Jonathan Vila, Shankar Sampingiraj, Rohit Kumar, Adil Khan, Marko Stankovic, Abhishek Halder, Alwyn George and Nikhil Poojari.

Forwards: Robin Singh, Gabriel Fernandes, Marcelo Pereira, Emiliano Alfaro, Ashique Kuruniyan, Diego Carlos and Iain Hume.

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