ISL: Resurgent Pune takes on in-form Mumbai City FC

Pune — coming off a win against in-form ATK — will be boosted by the return of Eugenson Lyngdoh, but a strong Mumbai City FC awaits them in the Maha derby.

FC Pune City takes on Mumbai City FC on Thursday.   -  Sportzpics

FC Pune City, coming off from a hard-earned home win, possess the ability to trouble any opponent in Hero ISL 2016. Two wins in eight games and a -1 goal difference suggests a team still to realise its strengths. Head coach Antonio Habas has demanded goals from his strikers, who have been busy around the rival goalmouth, without goals to show for their effort.

FCPC, in seven league games so far, managed 30 shots on target, equal to Mumbai City FC (30 from nine games) whom it meets at the Mumbai Football Arena on Thursday. Habas’ side completed 2000 passes (compared to 1926 by MCFC), suggestive of better co-ordination in the middle where Mohammed Sissoko towers over others with his work rate and energy level.

Eugenson Lyngdoh’s likely return to the squad can lift the midfield efficiency to a different level. The Indian playmaker trained twice since return from Doha after the AFC Cup final with Bengaluru FC. He is set to play his first match in season three, he is a vital link in the chain and can turn a match around, in tandem with Sissoko.

Lyngdoh’s creative ability and delivery, both aerial and on the ground, can be utilized by Jonathan Luca and Jesus Tato, two high-quality strikers upfront suffering from shortage of passes ever since Arata Izumi got injured. Eduardo Ferreira was in good form against Atletico de Kolkata, before suffering from concussion and will be a doubtful starter.

Edel Bete in goal is a match-winner any day, despite the eight goals scored against FCPC and zero clean sheets. The Cameroon custodian has also made the maximum saves by any goalkeeper, 29 in eight matches. With such an assembly of talent, the visitors’ seventh placing is an embarrassment Habas will hope to correct.

Asked to explain the gap between potential and performance, the Spaniard declared: “The players are ready. After the match against ATK, the group is fantastic. Mumbai beat us in Pune, we will try to beat them. It is difficult I know, we will try.” Alexandre Guimareas, the home team head coach, cautioned: “The other team has changed a little bit in their approach.”

Boosted by the arrival of Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Amrinder Singh and Lalchhuanmawia from the Bengaluru FC squad, Guimareas has a selection problem on his hands. “This is like a blessing for us. We are glad to have them and gives me resources and (more) possibilities about which players to start.”

The home team, inspired by Diego Forlan assists and goals, is leading the league table with most wins by any team (four from nine matches), second best goal-difference (+2) and most points (15). Guimares is not looking too far ahead. “We cannot fall into this trap that we are almost there (in the play-off). We have to keep going.”