11th March, 2014
Mongkok Stadium, Hong Kong
17:30 IST, Star Sports 4
It’s like giving examinations in a new class for new subjects. Pune FC prepares for their first away trip from home, on their maiden AFC Cup journey. The Red Lizards travel to Hong Kong to cross swords with Kitchee SC for their second Group H encounter. Both the teams avoided defeats in their first round matches and would be raring to keep that thread alive at the Mongkok Stadia on Wednesday.
The Hong Kong side are top of the table in the HKFA first division table with a goal difference of 35. Under the mentorship of caretaker manager Cheng Chung, the Blues haven’t lost a single game in last ten outings, including a first round rout of a more than decent Tampines Rovers side away from home. A record enough to give the Pune FC defence nightmares before they lock horns.
Kitchee SC is expected to start with Whang in the goal with Spanish defender Fernando Comi at the back. Cheng is expected to deploy the same 3-4-3 line-up, especially at home. With a clear intent of attacking, defenders Jang Kyung and Kin Fung are expected to start alongside Comi. The four man midfield could constitute of Gao Wen, Lam Ka, Man Fai and the captain Khwan Yee. We could see some changes during the course of the game as the Kitchee side flaunts quite impressive bench strength. [All three substitutions were made in the previous match].
The Pune Fc defenders could be facing the daunting task of facing three attackers – Spanish Juan Belencoso , veteran Tarres and young sensation Huang Yang. Both Tarres and Belencoso got on the scoresheet in the previous match and would be looking to add to their tally.
Probable Starting XI (3-4-3): Whang, Comi, Jang, Kin; Gao, Lam, Man, Khwan (c); Tarres, Belencoso, Hyung Yang.
Mike Snoei’s team landed in the world’s most vertical city after fourteen hours of travel. The team would be hoping to keep their travel fatigue aside as they look to garner some points from this tricky away match. The worrying fact from a Red Lizards’ point of view is that the side has not been amongst victories lately. The Maharashtra side has only won once in their last ten matches, including last three draws (in all competitions).
Pune will be once again relying on Amrinder under the bar to keep out the dangerous strikes from the Kitchee strikers. English defender Calum Angus could be partnered by Salam Ranjan or by the club captain Anas, who is back after nursing a injury. Anas’s return would be a huge boost for a struggling defence, as clearly it is one of the major problem for the coach and the team to address before the kick off. Pune FC has conceded five goals in their last five games. Right back and the flank could be owned by Ralte and Anthony D’souza respectively. With Gurjinder Kumar in the squad, Snoei would be tempted to start him as well as the Punjabi lad would provide an additional attacking flavour. Left back Srikanth would be syncing up with captain Gabriel Fernandes. Most of the attacks have brewed from the left flank for the Pune side in the recent games.
Right in front of the defence, would be the relentless runner in Douhou Peirre and Ganeshan . Both the midfielders would be shouldering the responsibility of orchestrating the attacks. Snoei has a tough decision to make as far as his strike force is concerned as Riga Mustapha is all set to start. The Dutch lad’s partner today could be Haokip or the much more physical Pavlovic. New recruit, Mirjan Pavlovic is expected to get the nod ahead of Manipuri attacker Haokip, with latter hoping to make an impact from the bench.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Amrinder, Calum, Anas, Srikanth, Ralte; Fernandes, Anthony, Douhou, Ganeshan, Riga, Pavlovic.
Players to Watch Out:
The Spaniard has been a veteran at the club, as the Hong Kong based club prepare to participate in their fourth AFC Cup. The former Espanyol and Hercules star has netted a mammoth thirty five times for Kitchee already. His presence upfront would surely keep the Pune FC defenders on their toes.
The Ivorian has been a more than influential figure for the Red Lizards this season. The tireless worker in the middle of the park is sure to stand up and get counted in big matches. Coach Mike Snoei and all the Pune FC faithful would be hopeful that the midfield marshal brings his A game to the Mongkok Stadia today.
Kitchee SC 1-1 Pune FC
Buoyed by their emphatic victory over Tampines Rovers in the first round, the Hong Kong side would be eager to have a go and register their second victory in the group. But the visiting Indian side might have different plans. After a disappointing couple of months in the I-League, the Maharashtra side would be hoping to put in their best performance in their maiden AFC Cup. It could very well end as a draw.