Pune brace up for Mumbai in ISL (Preview)

Pune, Oct (IANS) Hosts FC Pune City will seek a confidence-boosting win in their Indian Super League (ISL) football opener against fellow statemates Mumbai City FC here on Monday.

Pune will be without the presence of their new coach Antonio Habas at the Balewadi Stadium, who will begin his four-match suspension from the match.

Habas, then Atletico de Kolkata’s coach, was sent off during the second-leg of the semi-final against Chennaiyin FC last year. He was banned for four games by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for aggressive behaviour.

ATK lost that match to end their campaign, forcing Habas to carry forward the suspension to this season and will be missing Pune’s first four matches.

Assistant coach Miguel will be in charge against Mumbai. Pune will also be without Mohamed Sissoko, a late replacement for the injured Eidur Gudjohnsen, Pune’s original choice as the marquee player, and Andre Bikey.

Sissoko joined the team days back and is not in state to make his debut on Monday.

The hosts will though will be boosted by two-time ISL winner goalkeeper Edel Bete while players like Jonathan Lucca and Bruno Arias will also have a significant role to play.

Focus will also be on home-based players Augustine Fernandes, Izumi Arata, Francis Fernandes, Narayan Das and Sanju Pradhan.

Mumbai is as formidable as any team in the tournament with a enviable striking line comprising Indian captain Sunil Chhetri, marquee man Diego Forlan and Sony Norde.

Mumbai City’s ISL journey has been similar to Pune, promising much but delivering little in the first two editions.

They also will be helmed by a first-time coach, in Costa Rican coach Alexandre Guimaraes and will be four players, including Chhetri who are yet to join the team, due to their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup commitments for I-League champions Bengaluru FC.

The star attraction of the match will definitely be Forlan. The Uruguayan was the joint top-scorer at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and is expected to shoulder a majority of Mumbai’s striking burden upfront.

–IANS

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