Mike Snoei's side will look to end their three game winless record in Pune against Lajong on Saturday...
Pune FC will look to close in the gap at the top when they host Shillong Lajong in an I-League round 20 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Saturday.
The Red Lizards haven’t been able to make the most of the home conditions as they have failed to beat the north eastern outfit on three occasions in the past.
In their last nine matches in all competitions, Pune FC have registered just a single victory which came against Mohammedan Sporting, a side lying in the bottom half of the table.
Although they have been dominant in their last three I-League matches, much of it has been due to coach Mike Snoei’s decision to field Mustapha Riga in the midfield.
In their last tie against Mumbai FC in the absence of the Dutchman, they didn’t capitalize on their chances and hence were held to a goal-less draw.
The good news for Pune FC fans is that Riga is fit to start on Saturday and new signing Mirjan Pavlovic is expected to be named in the starting eleven with Thongkhosiem Haokip and Fanai Lalrempuia to be benched.
“The result (in the last match against Mumbai FC) was not as we expected. The draw prevented us from closing in on the leaders (Bengaluru FC).
“Lajong have a good set of foreigners and Indian players and are placed behind us on the league table. They are a good team and it will not be easy for us,” said Snoei.
Shillong Lajong haven’t been in the best of forms as they come into the tie after suffering a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Salgaocar FC. Prior to that they did well to comeback after being 2-0 down to pick a point against United Sports Club.
The north east outfit will be playing their third straight away fixture and will be without the services of midfielder Milan Singh who has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
They are the only side in the top five who have conceded more goals (27) than they have scored (23) this season. Coach Thangboi Singto will hope his side pick three points and arrest their downward slide.
“We have been away from home for almost three weeks. But the morale at the moment is good and the team is ready to go all out.
“We will play for a win and hopefully the boys will deliver a good performance against the second best team in the I-League. It is going to be a tough match as Pune FC is a very strong team in all aspects,” said Singto.Expect a close contest on Saturday as the two teams will look to climb up the standings.
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