The Red Lizards of Pune look to end their win-less streak and a dismal away record against the Blues of Shillong who are placed second from bottom and eager to avoid relegation.
All is not rosy in Shillong as round fourteen of the I-League sees Rangdajied United, the home side, look to conquer the travelling Lizards of Pune FC with both teams in a spot of bother. However, what is certain is that this is an important fixture for both teams.
Rangdajied are certainly a team on the rise. Yes, they may have succumbed to East Bengal in the last round of fixtures, losing 2-1, but an encouraging run of results before that saw them get to within touching distance of Goan stalwarts Dempo SC in 11th, just four points behind them. This tie will give Santosh Kashyap's squad a chance to prove that they aren’t relegation scrappers.
The form of Eugeneson Lyngdoh will be an appreciated boost for the Indian coach, the medio returns to a good spell of form he had showed before the injury that sidelined him. The additions of Gouramangi Singh and Subrata Paul have boosted the Blues’ squad with vital experience and they will look for redemption after their loss to East Bengal from the previous round.
Strikers Kim Yong and Manandeep Singh were accused of missing half-chances and will look to put all issues of complacency to rest as they look to increase the home team’s goal tally. However, either of them are expected to be given competition by T Lalnunpuia, who is also expected to play a role in the match day squad. David Nghaite, who was restricted to an appearance from the bench in the last fixture, is expected to reclaim his starting berth.
Pune FC meanwhile, have all sorts of problems in their attacking line-up. They heavily rely on Mustapha Riga, who sometimes goes missing in games. At times he misses a wide variety of chances before he gets a goal to his name. Inexperience is prominent on the bench with Thongkhoisiem Haokip and Shanmugham Venkatesh the only alternatives to the Dutchman.
Mike Snoei will be forced to use Douhou Pierre in the starting eleven again. The tireless Ivorian is Pune’s brightest spark so far this season. His defense splitting run and subsequent pass to Arata Izumi initially brought his side on level terms with Mumbai FC and the gaffer will hope Douhou has even more tricks up his sleeve as they take on Rangdajied.
Anas Edathodika and Calum Angus, though ever reliable, have seen themselves breached a few times, conceding 5 goals in 4 games. They will look to stem the flow against a creative influx from the Rangdajied defense to their strikers upfront. Mike Snoei faces the big test of whether to play James Meyer, the Australian who has had injury problems of late and is a shadow of his pacey self a few games ago.
The last time these two teams met, Pune FC emerged victorious albeit by a slender 1-0 margin. They’ll hope history repeats itself as they desperately seek a win to remain in touch with the leaders Bengaluru FC, who are five points ahead of them, though, having played two games more.
Rangdajied on the other hand will look to curtail Pune’s attacking purpose and hit them on the counter in an effort to close the gap on Dempo. With such a lot riding on this match, one would hope that the anathema of cagey football doesn’t ruin what is expected to be a refreshingly exciting spectacle of attacking football in this bout of the I-League.
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