With injuries to key players, goalkeeper Subrata Paul and striker Mandjou Keita, not providing the perfect setting that any coach would expect on the eve of a long season ahead, coach Derrick Pereira confirms, “we are prepared.”
“What is… is. We have to get on because life is just like that,” explains the coach on eve of the game at the Balewadi Sports Complex on Friday. The match kicks off at 6.30 pm local time under lights.
For Pune FC the match assumes importance because in the past three seasons, their North-Eastern opponents have never gone down and proved to be tough nuts to crack.
“They will certainly be on a high owing to their two semi-final showings in the Federation Cup and Durand Cup,” observes Derrick, who will also be keen to log that elusive first win.
Both teams have met five times overall since 2009 and Lajong FC have had three wins. However, Pune FC at home have been home kings and tough, which makes the game an open bet.
“We will be trying our best. It’s a chance for our youngsters to step up and grab the opportunity and understand what the need of the hour is,” said the Pune FC coach.
Adding to Keita’s and Subrata’s injury list is wing-half, Paresh Shivalkar, who is ruled out for the game owing to a hamstring injury.
With options aplenty in the midfield, the possibility of Lester Fernandez, Izumi Arata are options on the left wing and something that coach will decide later on in the day.
In the absence of Subrata, the options turn to Shahinlal Meloly, who had a brilliant game in the last game against Blackburn Rovers at the same venue, and Amrinder Singh.
In the defence, Othallo Tabia and Gurjinder Kumar will work as first choices on the wings with Chika Wali, Caitano Costa and Anas Edatodika making up the choices for central defense.
Upfront, Pune FC have Jeje Lalpekhlua who will be back after being rested from Durand Cup duty and is likely to be supported by either Subash Singh or Arata or Douhou Pierre, who have been options tried out during the season so far.
The other stat Pune FC will like to change is the draw opening match run at home. In the first year, Pune Fc drew with East Bengal 0-0 and the following year, with Mohun Bagan 1-1.
Head-to-head (all matches):
Shillong Lajong: P-5 W-3 D-2 L-0
Pune FC: P-5 W-0 D-2 L-3
26/03/11: IFA Shield, Kolkata: Pune FC 1-2 Shillong Lajong
20/03/10: I-League: Shillong Lajong 1-0 Pune FC
27/12/09: FEC: Cuttack Shillong Lajong 1-1 Pune FC
08/11/09: IL: Pune Pune FC 1-1 Shillong Lajong
14/04/09: I2D Guwahati: Shillong Lajong 2-0 Pune FC