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The Pune FC gaffer wants his side to rise from their recent slump and produce a performance befitting the occasion…

Pune FC play Vietnam champions Hanoi T&T at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, Pune on Wednesday in an AFC Champions play-off round one. Backed by financial muscle, Hanoi have a talented side and Mike Snoei is first to accept that it will be a huge challenge for his side to overcome them.

“It’s a tremendous achievement for this club and now we must try to do something good for this club to show up on this podium and it will start tomorrow (Wednesday).

“I remember when the club asked me to join here; I was looking forward to this moment especially to do something in qualification games for Champions League. Also my foreigners are looking forward to it and on this podium you can show everything they ask for.  So overall it’s a terrific moment to start. We have a difficult game against the champions of Vietnam. It will not be easy but a big challenge and we are looking forward to it,” said Snoei.

Pune FC haven’t done too well of late and finished bottom of their group in the Federation Cup with two defeats and a draw. Snoei mentioned that he had plans to turn things around and drew confidence from past victories. He also spoke about his coaching days in Europe where he along with Henk ten Cate defeated the mighty Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho in a Champions League tie at the San Siro.

“Well if you play with the winners of the tournament, Churchill brothers then you know it’s not easy but we have beaten Bengaluru FC, Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan at this stadium so I look at the positives. Everybody knows we have a very young group of players and you cannot always be at the top of your level. And it was a different climate there in Kerala, different circumstances but now we play in our own stadium, our own environment and it will be very tough but also a big challenge.

“I have played Champions’ League group stage in Asian Champions League and in Europe and I can remember a game that we played with Panathinaikos F.C. in San Siro stadium and five minutes before the game we were waiting and I saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adriano, Jose Mourinho as the coach and I thought we had already lost this game. But after 90 minutes we scored the winning goal in San Siro. So this also happens in European football and here.

“So these 3 games (Thailand’s Muangthong United and Australia’s Melbourne Victory being the next two opponents) you can get now and especially this first one - it's maybe 50-50. If we can fight and compete with these teams in a way that make us proud, only then we can achieve something. They are the champions of Vietnam, it will not be easy but this podium is what we want and we will fight for it."

The squad at Snoei’s disposal is comparatively very young and inexperienced the coach had a few words of advice for his players asking them to also enjoy the occasion. He said he want them to be proud and not nervous, and reminiscence about these days fondly.

“Well it was also a choice to start working here, so we can expect this podium. Now it’s my job and we’ve been busy for a few weeks and make clear to the players that on this podium you must bring the best out of yourself. If you play 100%, like when we play our football at home, we can show here, as we have with good wins then that we can surprise some teams.

“I know the Vietnamese team have a good squad but we also have a good team and players must not be nervous but proud that the club achieved this in the short period of seven years and that we must not give it away easily. And we can speak about teams in the past like Dempo SC who got hammered in the qualification games but we must only look to ourselves.

“We must look game by game and we look to the game in Thailand but only to prepare ourselves. I hope the players won’t be nervous and try to enjoy it because this is a nice podium. When you look back at your career you can say ‘Hey, these were fantastic moments.’ It is not easy but hopefully they’ll do well.”

Snoei hoped that fans turn out in numbers on Wednesday for the big game as his side are ready to fight out until the end to win the home tie.

“We have no injuries. My biggest job is to disappoint a few players who also want to be in the A team. We have a good group of 18 players. It is more exciting for them than the Federation Cup but now we must prove it and must fight in the end. It may be 120 minutes or may end with penalties and we are prepared. Hopefully we can do it in a full stadium.”

The Red Lizards haven’t been scoring enough goals and Snoei mentioned that some players have take on ‘extra responsibility’ upfront.

“I am happy with my full squad and we work with these players and try to achieve something. We attack and defend with 11 players so we can’t put full attention on two strikers. If I see the development of Gabriel (Fernandes) who came from Dempo and the development finally of Anthony D’Souza who took a long time to adapt from Goan football to Pune football then I am happy.

“There is more responsibility for  Mustapha Riga, the Dutch striker who must prove that he already played on this level but also more pressure on Douhou (Pierre) and on Calum Angus because these guys know what happens in these games so we must do it together and try to score goals because its only one game."

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