Pune FC host Salgaocar FC in I-League

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Pune, April 6 (IANS) Pune FC will be up against familiar foes when they host Salgaocar FC in an I-League Round 15 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi on Tuesday.

Playing their second game in four days, after being held to a 1-1 draw by Bharat FC in the first-ever Pune derby on Saturday, Pune FC will face Salgaocar for the fourth time this season. Earlier, both sides faced off thrice in the Durand Cup final (November), Federation Cup group stage (January) and the I-League opener (January).

Interestingly, all three matches were played on Goan soil and it will be the first time Pune FC will play Salgaocar outside the coastal state this season. Moreover, having failed to register a win in all three games, Pune FC will be fired up to get the result at home.

However, coach Karim Bencherifa will want his side to be cautious against a strong Salgaocar side led by ex-Pune FC coach Derrick Pereira.

“There was hardly any time to think about the last game. As soon as the final whistle blew, we started thinking about this game because we had just two days. However, we had a discussion to highlight a few things from the previous game that we need to improve and work on,” said Bencherifa.

“At the same time, we also worked on the positives from the game. Every game is a tricky one in I-league due to the competitiveness and we need to be prepared.”

Salgaocar (14 points) are currently in fifth place in the table, just three points behind fourth placed Pune FC (17 pts). The game thus carries added significance as both sides will look to improve their positions.

Furthermore, having earned just two points in the last three games after the international break, Pune FC will be looking to shrug off their poor run. With the big game against East Bengal coming up this weekend, Pune FC will hope to get the most out of the Salgaocar game to carry forward the momentum.

On the team news front, Pune FC will be missing the services of medio Dhanpal Ganesh. The India-international played every single minute in all competitions this season and misses out, having been sent off late against Bharat FC.

Nonetheless, the squad will be boosted by the return of medio Arata Izumi, who is back after serving his one-match suspension for receiving four yellow cards.

Portuguese winger Edgar Marcelino will be a doubt, having been substituted early on with a hamstring injury in the previous round. Apart from a couple of long term absentees, the rest of the team is fit and will be available for selection.

Salgaocar come into the game on the back of a mixed run. The Goans have lost thrice and won twice alternatively recently with the latest being a defeat to Mohun Bagan in Kolkata.

They will depend heavily on playmaker Douhou Pierre. The ex-Pune FC man returns to Balewadi to face Pune FC for the first time since switching sides at the start of the season. The Ivorian will be joined by another former Pune FC defender Gurjinder Kumar.

Apart from Douhou, the likes of Daryll Duffy, Francis Kasonde and Khaled Hasan will form the spine of the team while Rocus Lamare, Subrata Paul and Augustine Fernandes will add to the experience.

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