Paung Laung Stadium, Nay Pyi Taw,
8th April 2014
AFC Cup 2014 Group H looks very much unpredictable at the moment with Kitchee FC leading the pack. Nay Pyi Taw FC and Pune FC, the newcomers in the competition will came to know about their fate by the end of this match. Only one of them stands a realistic chance of progressing from this group and a win is needed to keep their hopes alive. Hosts Nay Pyi Taw FC are in a better situation having drawn their match against Pune FC in Pune and will be hoping to get the better of the visitors at their own den. Pune FC on the other hand, has been rooted to the bottom of the group after their twin defeats against Tampines Rovers. Nothing less than a victory can boost both the teams chances of progressing beyond the group stages, and the match promises to be an exciting encounter.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Nay Pyi Taw FC
Myanmar Team will be counting on their remaining two fixtures in Group H to progress to the AFC Cup 2014 knockout stages. Their tough outings against Kitchee FC are over and now they need to see out the challenges of Pune FC, whom they drew away from home and Tampines Rovers, whom they defeated at their own den. Similar results in the return fixtures can ensure their progression and the Myanmar side will be hoping to make the best out of the home conditions against Pune FC. The 50 odd travelling fans were vociferous and made their mark when these sides met in Pune. We can expect a strong 12th man’s presence in Nay Pyi Taw which can drive the team forward even in adverse situations.
Goalkeeper Van Larr Hrual will lead his side against the I-League runners up and is expected to be shielded by a back four of Nay Zaw Aung, Obadin Aikhena, Latt Ko Ko Aye and Chit San Muang in the absence of suspended left back Ni Muang Muang Aung. Nigerian Obadin is a crucial player for the hosts and he will be assigned the responsibility of dominating the aerial battles. Latt Ko Ko Aye, even though a small player is a very tough tackler on the pitch and is quick enough to play as a sweeper to clear any danger in defence. Pace is a potent weapon in Nay Pyi Taw FC’s armory and both the full backs are expected to run up and down the pitch through out the game.
Korean midfielder Jung Yoon Sik has been a revelation since joining the side and will be sorely missed if he cannot shake off his injury concerns. His all round game stood out when these two sides met in Pune earlier. In Jung’s absence there is a chance of few holes opening up in the center of the park. Aye San will have to guide his partner in such an important fixture to dominate the midfield battle. When it comes to wide areas, there are plenty of options available for head coach Myo Win. Tin Zaw Moe and Zaw Lin constantly got the better of Pune FC defence with their pace and trickery in the reverse fixture, and they are likely to keep their place on flanks at the expense of vice captain Pyae Phyo Oo.
In their favored 4-2-3-1 formation, Argentine Delgado occupies the hole behind Italian striker Di Piedi. Their combination has been deadly in the MNL and they will be hoping to take it to the AFC Cup matches as well. The duo combines brilliantly with each other with through balls, lay-off and clever movements making space for each other. Being the hosts, Nay Pyi Taw FC is expected to pitch in with the goals and the responsibility lies in Di Piedi’s broad shoulders. If Delgado can pull the strings effectively, Di Piedi will be a threat in and around the box.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Van Larr Hrual; Nay Zaw Aung, Obadin Aikhena, Latt Ko Ko Aye, Chit San Maung; Aye San, Khaing Htoo; Tin Zaw Moe, Delgado Carlos Alberto, Zaw Lin; Michele Di Piedi.
Pune FC are on a miserable run yet again and it will be interesting to see whether they can shake off their troubles in Myanmar. They are in a must win situation and any other result will mean an exit from group stages of AFC Cup 2014. In their last continental match, Mike Snoei tried out a 3-5-2 formation which back fired heavily, PFC conceded 5 goals after scoring 2 at home. Pune FC are trying out more academy products at the moment and seems to have lost the balance between experience and youth. Red Lizards are expected to switch back to their coaches favorite 4-2-3-1 formation against Nay Pyi Taw FC, and the match is expected to be a goal fest as both sides will be going all out for the vital 3 points.
Goal keeper Amrinder Singh has made some amazing saves in the competition and he is expected to start behind the bars. Injury to skipper Anas Edathodikka means that Calum Angus will be paired at the heart of defence by academy product Salam Ranjan Singh. Indian International Gurjinder Singh has fallen behind the pecking order to Zohaligiana Ralte and the youngster has done well to adapt to the left back role so far. The other flanks will be manned by Srikanth Ramu as Othallo Tabia will be waiting for an opportunity yet again.
In their I-League match against Salgaocar SC, Dhanpal Ganesh’s rush of blood had cost the game for Pune FC and that place is up for grabs. Arata Izumi, Lalrempuia Fanai and even defender Gurjinder Singh can be seen as options to partner Duhou Pierre in a central role. Even though Gurjinder provides defensive cover, he is very raw for such a crucial role and sometimes tends to over-dribble in the middle of the park. Lalrempuia is just a 17-year old youngster and the defensive responsibilities will be huge for him to handle at such an important face. Arata and Douhou seems a good partnership while going forward but they aren’t sound enough defensively. While weighing up the options, Arata seems the most likely to get the nod considering the importance of the occasion and his vast experience.
The front four seems very flexible in this formation, and they can create havoc in opposition defences on their day. Gabriel Fernandez and Anthony D’Souza have pace and trickery to threaten down the wings, but they need to be more consistent. Riga Mustapha Rahmat is playing much better in the number 10 role after being relieved of the striker duties. As a number 10 he might be needed to contribute defensively and that is where Pune FC is leaving a big gap in the middle. Mirjan Pavlovic is still not ready to play 90 minutes and we can expect a cameo from promising youngster Haokip.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Amrinder Singh; Srikanth Ramu, Salam Ranjan Singh, Calum Angus, Z Ralte; Arata Izumi, Douhou Pierre; Gabriel Fernandez, Riga Mustapha, Anthony D’Souza; Mirjan Pavlovic.
Players to watch
Nay Zaw Aung (Nay Pyi Taw FC)
Nay Pyi Taw FC’s right wing back, Nay Zaw Aung, is a defender full of energy and enthusiasm throughout the 90 minutes. He was one of the unsung heroes when these two sides met in Pune. He kept Pune FC winger Anthony D’souza quiet throughout the game and bombarded the Pune FC defense with his raids every now and then. His crosses are an outlet for Di Piedi to mark his name in the goal scorers chart. If he can keep the opposition winger in check then surely he is going to create problems for their defence.
Douhou Pierre (Pune FC)
Douhou Pierre has stepped up to the task of leading Pune FC in Anas Edathodikka’s absence. He is a treat to watch with football at his mercy and runs the show when Pune FC are in command. His free flowing game and creative vision is outstanding as he has the knack of providing defence splitting passes which changes the course of the game. If he gets into groove it will be difficult to stop Pune FC attacks as he combines effortlessly with the front 4. Even when Douhou’s attacking exploits takes center stage, his defensive contribution leaves some question marks. Douhou needs to put in a full shift if Pune FC are to come out victorious in this do or die battle or else they can forget about AFC Cup 2014.
Nay Pyi Taw FC 2 – 2 Pune FC
Nay Pyi Taw FC holds the edge over Pune FC with their home advantage. The chance of progression from group stages will drive both teams forward and a goal fest can be expected in Myanmar. The absence of Jung will be huge deterrent in Nay Pyi Taw FC’s hopes and it remains to be seen whether they can cope up with his absence. With the huge stakes involved in the match, THT is predicting an entertaining 2-2 draw between Nay Pyi Taw FC and Pune FC.