FC Pune City will hope that last season’s qualification into the play-offs was not a flash in the pan as they embark on a new season which kicks-off this weekend.
It must be noted that no team from the city of Pune has ever won the Indian Super League (ISL) or the I-League ever. The 2018-19 season offers the Orange Army an opportunity to redeem themselves.
Spanish coach Miguel Angel Portugal has joined FC Pune City from Delhi Dynamos this season. Despite his vast experience, his first season in Indian football wasn't memorable as he could guide Delhi to an eighth-placed finish only. Portugal has now switched camp to Pune and will be tasked with improving their play-off finish. An advocate of possession-based attacking football, Portugal is expected to make the most of Pune's quality attacking players.
Indian players: Keenan Almeida, Ashutosh Mehta, Shankar Sampingiraj, Alwyn George, Nikhil Poojari, Gabriel Fernandes, Robin Singh.
Foreign players: Matt Mills, Martin Diaz, Jonathan Villa, Iain Hume.
FC Pune City have signed four new foreign players this season. The most notable ones among them are Matt Mills, Iain Hume and Jonathan Vila. Mills has played for several big English clubs like Leicester City and Nottingham Forest. The Stallions have also signed Iain Hume, the topscorer in the history of ISL, to bolster their attack. However, his injury means he will miss the first half of the season.
Among the Indian recruits, the most notable signings for Pune City are striker Robin Singh and winger Nikhil Poojari.
Strength & Weakness:
FC Pune City can boast of having one of the best attacks on paper in the league. They already had Marcelinho, Emiliano Alfaro, Ashique Kuruniyan and Diego Carlos upfront. The addition of Iain Hume, Robin Singh and Nikhil Poojari will further bolster the attack. Hume is the eighth foreigner and he will be added to the squad in case some other foreigner is dropped.
The Stallions also have a lot of options on their wings. The likes of Diego Carlos, Ashique, Poojari, Marcelinho, Gabriel Fernandes and all have pace to burn and expect Pune to threaten during counter-attacks.
Pune's defence, however, looks a bit weak as they do not have any big Indian name in central defence. But they do have good full-backs in Sarthak Golui and Sahil Panwar. However, they need to build on the promise they showed last season.
Goalkeepers: Anuj Kumar, Kamaljit Singh, Vishal Kaith
Defenders: Ashutosh Mehta, Gurtej Singh, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Martin Diaz, Matt Mills, Nim Dorjee Tamang, Sahil Panwar, Sarthak Golui,
Midfielders: Marko Stankovic, Alwyn George, Rohit Kumar, Adil Khan, Shankar Sampingiraj, Jonathan Vila
Attackers: Marcelinho, Emiliano Alfaro, Ashique Kuruniyan, Robin Singh, Gabriel Fernandes, Jakob Vanlalhimpuia, Diego Carlos, Nikhil Poojari