Pune, March 6 (IANS) Having secured a place among the coveted top four teams in the Indian Super League (ISL), it’s time for FC Pune City and Bengaluru FC to lock horns in the first of the two-legged semi-finals at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Wednesday.
While Bengaluru FC topped the league standings with consistent performances in their debut season, FC Pune City made history by making it to the playoffs for the first time.
Both FC Pune City and Bengaluru FC play an eye-catching attacking brand of football, and something similar will be expected of them when they clash for the third time this season.
“Now is not the time to make changes to how we play. If we make changes now it may not work for us. When you play the league you have some games to make up,” FC Pune City head coach Ranko Popovic said during the pre-match press conference.
“Now we have to be very careful. We have two games and nothing will be decided tomorrow, we need to play good in both games to make it to the finals,” he added.
When asked about his teams strategy Popovic said: “It is very simple; score as many goals as possible and concede as less as possible. if we can do that, we’ll be in the final. We need to express ourselves the way we have been doing throughout the season. We have done very well in the season, and not going all the way will be disappointing.”
After missing out the previous game, Pune City’s dynamic duo Marcelo Leite Pereira and Emiliano Alfaro will both be available for big clash.
Commenting on their importance Popovic added: “Not having them is like Barcelona without Messi and Suarez.”
The game in Pune will be the third meeting between the two teams. Bengaluru FC defeated the home side 3:1 during their last visit and the visitors will look to do an encore.
Talking about their opponents, BFC assistant coach Naushad Moosa told reporters that it won’t be an easy game even though his team managed to top the league standings.
“The first match we played against them, they were leading, it was only after they got a red card we scored three goals. FC Pune City is a tough team to play against and we are looking forward to it,” he said.
While FC Pune City has played attacking football through the course of the season, there are question marks over their defense, and that is something Bengaluru would want to exploit.
Moosa also felt that playing the first match in the playoff away from home is not a disadvantage as BFC hold a very good away record.
“I really don’t think to play the first game away from home is a disadvantage. If you see our track record, we have a very good record away from home. We want to play positive football and win the game,” Moosa added.