ISL: Can Pune City repeat result against ATK at home?

Third placed FC Pune City hosts defending champion ATK as both sides aim for a win to enhance their chances of a semifinal berth.

Pune's attacking duo of Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro train ahead of the clash against ATK.   -  Special Arrangement

The race for one of the four semifinal spots in the Indian Super League heats up as the action moves into the business end of the competition.

Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin FC and to some extent FC Goa should be happy with their campaign in the first leg that propelled them to the top half of the table. FC Pune City has also done reasonably well but is yet to prove that the side deserves a spot in the knockout stage.

With 16 points from 10 matches, FCPC is currently third on the ISL table but has to remain wary as it is closely trailed by others. One such team surely is defending champion ATK, and when two face off against each other at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune on Saturday, it is bound to be an interesting contest.

Both teams will aim to displace the each other and work their way to the top. Pune, in particular, will be even more determined after losing its previous clash against Chennaiyin FC by a solitary goal.

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“We didn’t play as good as the first half, we had opportunities but didn’t make use of them,” said Pune City assistant coach Vladica Grujic, adding, “they would like to work towards not to concede goals in second half.” From the 11 goals conceded by Pune City so far, ten have come to haunt it in second half.

Part of Pune’s problems against Chennaiyin in the previous game were due to the absence of star striker Marcelinho. The Brazilian missed the game due to suspension but will be back to trouble ATK. It was Marcelinho who scored a double against ATK in the first leg clash in Kolkata as Pune recorded an astounding 1-4 victory.

That defeat at home would have hurt the defending champion ATK but the side has since grown from strength to strength. Teddy Sheringham’s team struggled during the early part of the season and tasted its first win only during the fifth game. The slow start hampered ATK’s progress but it now has a chance to catch up in the league.

“We are here to make amends to the result. We had to deal with the 4-1 loss in the first leg and we want to change that here,” Sheringham said.

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Sheringham is aware of his team’s low scoring record this season and is looking at setting things right in this game. “We haven’t scored goals as much as we would like to. But it’s not a reflection on our strikers. It’s tough to score goals, and we are trying to work on it. We have the strength at the front and we are looking at everything to improve in this game.”  

ATK has strengthened its side considerably with the arrival of winger David Cotterill, striker Martin Paterson and goalkeeper Soram Poirei. Star striker Robbie Keane is recovering too, providing Sheringham with the perfect ammunition to gun down a place among the top four.

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