Pune: FC Pune City’s campaign this season has been very different to that of it’s torrid past, wherein they have failed to make the play-offs even once in three seasons. But standing on 19 points with six wins, a draw and four losses the ‘Stallions’ look the early favourites to clinch their maiden knock-out berth when they take on Jamshedpur FC at the Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Wednesday.
A win can help them leapfrog Bengaluru at the top albeit having played a match more, but Jamshedpur bubbling with confidence after two back-to-back wins will not be an easy task.
Coach Ranko Popovic who will be back in the dugout after missing the past four matches said, “It will be a tough battle.” In the four encounters that he served a suspension Pune have not lost a single game, with their last defeat coming against FC Goa, a 1-2 defeat that had Popovic fuming with anger at the match officials.
“These kinds of things happen and some things happen to bring something better,” added the Serbian tactic talking of Pune’s sweet run. His side have been bolstered by the arrivals of Marko Stankovic and Manuel Jesus, both of whom made their ISL debut in the 3-0 win against ATK.
But irrespective of their run, the ‘Stallions’ will have to be at their best against a disciplined Jamshedpur who have shipped in just nine goals, that too at a time when nine other teams have already reached double figures. Popovic however was optimistic of his team’s chances.
“Jamshedpur play the same style e very game,” he stated. The only thing that has changed is that they are scoring goals. Very compact, very disciplined team. It’s very difficult to play against them. What we will do is, we will try to take the lead against them, to bring them in our return.”
Away coach Steve Coppell however showed enough respect to his opponents when he said, “They have some strong players from the attacking sense, some good players. We cannot hide that fact. We have to do our best to deal with that and at the same time make them do some work going the other way.”
He has the distinction of leading Kerala Blasters to their second final in three years and although Jamshedpur are not in the top four, standing at fifth they are closest to it.
“Absolutely delighted that we are on Pune City’s coat-tails,” said Coppell. His side is on 16 points from 11 matches, just three behind FC Pune. The ‘Men of Steel’s’ away performance has been as good as Pune’s torrid home performance, with just a loss to FC Goa.
A win will keep them at fifth but if it comes with a 6-0 margin or more, they can displace Goa at fourth in the table. Hence Coppell concluded saying, “It’s open for a lot of teams to make the top four and we are one of the pack, looking up enviously.”