Bangalore, March 27: Pune FC will be eager to shrug off their recent disappointing run when they face I-League leaders Bengaluru FC in a potentially season-defining match at the KSFA Stadium here Friday.
Playing their fourth consecutive away game, a win will be vital for third placed Pune FC (30 points) to keep their title hopes alive.
Returning to Bengaluru after almost two years, Pune FC will also be keen to maintain their healthy league record here. Back in 2010-11, Pune FC came out 2-1 winners over the erstwhile HAL SC and the following season they pumped six goals past the same opponents.
After a disappointing 2-3 loss to Churchill Brothers in the previous round, Pune FC will be optimistic while aspiring for a positive result as they enter a hectic schedule playing eight matches at home, away and overseas in the next 30 days.
Post Sunday’s match, Pune FC had a few sessions in Goa acclimatising to the artificial turf before flying to Bangalore.
They will be missing the services of a number of key players. While keeper Amrinder Singh (red-card in previous game) and defender Anas Edathodika (four yellow cards) will be serving their respective one match suspensions, medio Dhanpal Ganesh is out with an injury.
However, they will be boosted by the return of defender Calum Angus who comes back after missing the previous game. Joining him will be left-back Nicolau Borges and back up keeper Shahinlal Meloly.
Sitting in the pole position, Bengaluru FC come into the game after a demoralising 0-3 loss to Shillong Lajong FC away from home, something Pune FC will hope to capitalise on.
With Friday’s game scheduled to be Bengaluru FC’s last at home, the south Indian side will be keen for a positive result before they end the campaign with a three-match away run.
They will be banking heavily on captain Sunil Chhetri along with striker Sean Rooney. Chhetri is currently the league’s top scorer with 13 goals while the Australian has chipped in with eight. Together, the duo has scored 21 out of Bengaluru FC’s 34 goals so far and will pose a challenge for the Pune FC backline.
The hosts too will be missing the services of keeper Pawan Kumar, who was sent off along with Kenyan-born defender Curtis Osano against Lajong.
The only encounter in the past between the two sides was in Pune in November when the game ended in favour of Pune FC.