The Hyderabad Deccan English Daily

Pune Football Club positive ahead of Federation Cup opener

Jamshedpur, Sept 19 (IBNS) Pune FC looks up to their experience to come true against United Sikkim FC (USFC) in an opening round Group-D Federation Cup clash at the Keenan Stadium, Jamshedpur on Thursday.

Having played four editions (including a qualifying round) over the years, Pune FC compared with USFC's single qualifying round appearance will expect to take the advantage on the morrow.

Both teams lock horns for the first time as USFC earned an Elite League place from the Second Division I-League last season (2011-12).

With changes aplenty to the team that earned promotion, USFC sport a new lineup. And by adding experienced players - ex-India international Anwar (Mohun Bagan) and ex-Shillong Lajong FC captain Zenith Mashangva - USFC remain competitive.

Pune FC Coach Derrick Pereira, explains, "The goal is to go out and win. Being the first match it is necessary to get a positive result and get match-confidence early."

"The players are in a good frame of mind. All showed positive attitude during the build-up back home. In fact, despite the long journey, from Pune to Jamshedpur, all are eager to get on," explained the Coach.

Having reached the Steel City Monday night, Pune FC goes into the game without even having a feel of the Keenan Stadium pitch.

"I do not know the prevailing conditions," the coach quipped. Since arrival, Pune FC has had training sessions scheduled at the JRD Hockey Ground and the Tata Football Academy stadium.

Meanwhile, the city over the past two days has experienced intermittent rain making the conditions warm and humid apart from leaving training grounds wet and soaked.

While the warm conditions work as a prematch advantage for Pune FC, USFC on their part spent last week in Kolkata to acclimatize. In fact, USFC goes into the game enjoying a morale boosting 2-1 win over Pailan Arrows in Kolkata.

Pune FC in comparison carries forward a four-practise match-winning streak, including a strong 3-0 win over ONGC in their last game.

Over the 2012-13 season so far, both Pune FC and USFC have not had the start they expected. Pune FC had a forgettable Durand Cup after making an exit in the group stage, while USFC played the northeast Super Series against Lajong and A-League team Wellington Phoenix and lost to both sides.

"We need to go on and prove the Durand Cup was one-off. The players have realized more effort was needed from them. We have pushed ourselves for this tournament," the Pune FC Coach explained.

With a full-squad to choose from, Coach Pereira explains, "All (players) are in excellent shape barring Gurjinder and Shahinlal."

Left wing back Gurjinder Kumar is nursing a nasty gash on his left eyebrow after getting injured in a friendly match in Pune. While goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly is running slight temperature ever since the team arrived.

On the other hand, USFC have a South Korean Yoon Tae (goalkeeper) and ex-Costa Rican 2006 World Cupper defender Michael Rodrigues to add sting among a host of local Sikkimese players, which includes Bhaichung Bhutia.

For the record, Pune FC's opening game record in the Fed Cup (final phase) is in the positive. Having scored two wins from three, Pune FC will hope the statistic holds firm once again.



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