The AFC Champions League first round qualifier couldn’t have come at a worse time for Pune FC. The Red Lizards have been going through a terrible run of form in the football pitch. Since the 1-0 home win over Bengaluru FC in early November, Pune FC have entered a run of form that has involved just a single win from 10 games, that too a narrow 2-1 victory over United SC. The poor run of form has seen them fall 6 points behind leaders Bengaluru FC in the I-League, and come home early from the Federation Cup, with just a point from the group stages.
Now the reigning Vietnamese league champions, Hanoi T&T, have come to town to fight out for a place in the second round of the AFC Champions League with Pune FC. As things stand, things don’t look too good for the hosts. Hanoi T&T’s last two wins have yielded 8 goals, and despite a 3-1 reverse to Ninh Binh last week, the visitors will be confident of getting past the Pune side.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Pune FC seem to have all sorts of problems at present. A misfiring frontline led to an early ouster from the Federation Cup. Star signing Mustapha Riga has scored a few goals for the club so far, but has failed to rise up to the challenge in quite a few crucial games. The inconsistent form of the attackers is a major worry for the club ahead of the clash against Hanoi. However, an even bigger headache for Pune, at present, is a leaky defence. In the last 10 games, the Red Lizards have conceded 17 goals, 8 of which have been let in during the last 4. For any league title contender, this is not a healthy statistic.
With Hanoi in good form offensively, Mike Snoei will perhaps have spent quite a few sleepless nights recently, thinking about this backline. One of the biggest problems in recent weeks for head coach Mike Snoei has been the underperforming players in the team. A number of senior players have been shockingly well below par, which hasn’t quite helped the team. The likes of Douhou Pierre and Anas Edathodika, usually the most consistent performers in the side, have been off-colour recently, and will need to step up to the plate against Hanoi, if they are to stand any chance of progressing into the second round of the qualifiers.
Expected Starting Lineup : Amrinder Singh; Gurjinder Kumar, Calum Angus, Anas Edathodika, Othallo Tabia; Gabriel Fernandes, Douhou Pierre, Anthony D’Souza, Arata Izumi; James Meyer and Mustapha Riga
Hanoi, on the other hand, have been in good form up front recently, scoring goals for fun domestically. However, the Hanoi side too has a few issues with its defence, having conceded 6 goals in its last 3 games. Despite the defensive problems, the club’s attacking form is a major boon going into the game against Pune FC. 22-year old midfielder Nguyễn Văn Quyết is in good form, and recently scored a brace against Hoan Anh Gia Lai in the Vietnamese league. Quyết, a Vietnamese international, could cause some serious trouble in the Pune wings, and the Red Lizards must keep an eye on him. The two frontmen of Hanoi are Samson Kayode and Gonzalo Marronkle.
Nigerian forward Kayode, who had once signed with La Liga giants Atletico Madrid, will be the danger-man up front, and has a more than capable strike partner in the Argentine Marronkle. Both these strikers are in a good vein of form, and Phan Thanh Hùng, the Hanoi manager, will be hoping that they continue their good run and are able to trouble the ailing Pune FC defence this Wednesday. With both these men in good form recently, the Pune defence cannot afford any mistakes. Giving these two any breathing space up front may seriously hamper the Lizards’ Champions League dreams. Coach Snoei will be aware of the threat the Vietnamese side poses as an attacking unit, and his plans for the game in midweek will be quite interesting to see.
Expected Starting Lineup : Dương Hồng Sơn; Sam Gallagher, Nguyễn Hồng Tiến, Nguyễn Văn Biển, Sầm Ngọc Đức; Hughton Hector, Cao Sỹ Cường, Bùi Văn Hiếu, Nguyễn Văn Quyết; Samson Kayode, Gonzalo Marronkle.
This is a game between two evenly-matched sides. Pune FC may look out of sorts at present, but will hope to turn things around soon, starting with Hanoi. The Red Lizards will be relieved to be playing at home, and will hope that the fans turn up at the Balewadi to back up the team. Hanoi T&T, however, hold a slight edge going into this game, particularly because of the poor form that Pune FC are currently in. The visitors have themselves not enjoyed a great defensive record, but will take confidence from the form of their attackers. Keeping these factors in mind, TheHardTackle predicts a 3-1 victory for Hanoi T&T.