The Hero Indian Super League is just days out, with teams all set to take the centre stage for the second edition of Hero ISL, The Hard Tackle returns with the season preview of FC Pune City.
FC Pune City, after losing back to back matches against Kerala Blasters and Delhi Dynamos, whimpered out of the race to qualify for the knockout stages. The two losses proved costly as Atletico de Kolkata piped Pune City to the knockout stage and went on to win the title at the first time of asking. Pune City, under new coach David Platt, will determined to proved to prove their critics wrongs as they eye to qualify for the knockout stages this time around.
Pune City, one of the most active teams during the drafts and auctions, reinforced the team with some crucial signings that complement brilliantly at least on paper. Despite a few injury concerns, Platt would be hoping that their Turkish sojourn comes in handy for the team chemistry with little respite for players between two matches.
Goalkeepers: Arindam Bhattacharya, Steve Simonsen, Lalit Thapa
Pune City made a single change in their goalkeeping department, with Steve Simonsen replacing the Italian Emanuele Belardi, is a tricky situation to comment on. Steve Simonsen, is an unknown package, and will need some time to adjust to the Indian conditions. A lot of other factors will also come into play but communication shouldna t be one of them. Arindam Bhattacharya, the former national team goalkeeper, and Lalit Thapa are of more or less of the same standard and the one who is consistent among the duo should nail the place in the starting line-up. Simonsen,though, will have to prove his worth first to Platt during the training sessions.
Defenders: Govin Singh, Diego Colotto, Roger Johnson, Pritam Kotal, Dharmaraj Ravanan, Gurjinder Kumar, Gouramangi Singh, Nicky Shorey
Pune City FC defence last year had quite a few weakness, especially the Indian players, who were quite below the standard compared to other teams. The team relied heavily on the foreigners to bail out from pressure which didna t help the foreigners either to settle. The defence hardly had any standard player as backup which showed a lack of planning from the management. Pune City made sure they werena t to repeat the same mistakes of last year and went on to nick the former National team and Chennaiyin FC defender Gouramangi Singh quite early in the off season. City also made sure that they werena t going to lose any of their top performers of last season as they fended off the interest among their players.
Deigo Colotto, 34, may be a tad too old for any European club, but this former Espanyol player should he remain injury free can turn the Pune City defence into a fortress. The Argentine, may be here for his last payday before hanging up his boots, should still be a quality defender to have in the ranks provided he can adjust to Indian conditions. Roger Jhonson, another new signing for Pune City, has few years of experience in the top two tier of English football will come in handy for Platt if he needs to shuffle the pack due to fatigue or suspension. Nicky Shorey, a common name for the Premier League fans, is well known for his time at Reading and his rampaging runs down the left flank. This adventurous left back can provide an alternative to unlock the opponenta s organised structure.
Among Indians, Pritam Kotal, a young right back, played a key role in Mohun Bagan winning the I-League last season and is expected to continue his development while playing for Pune City in ISL.
Midfielders: Didier Zokora, Manish Maithani, James Bailey, Israil Gurung, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Sushanth Matthew, Bikash Jairu, Lenny Rodrigues, Fanai Lalrempuia.
Similar to the defence, FC Pune City were again let down by their poor choice of Indian players in the previous season but managed to cope with their opponents due to a high standard of foreigners. Kostas Katsouranis is definetly going to missed but the management have tried to replace by signing former Tottenham Hotspur player Didier Zokora. The former Ivory Coast Internationala s experience at the Premier League and La Liga will be quite useful as he leads the team for the season.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh, the current poster boy of Indian Football, is a huge capture for Pune City who struggled in the centre of the park despite having a player of Kostasa calibre. Lyngdoh with his Lampard-esque runs into the box is bound to get some goals for Pune City. The Bengaluru FC man, was at the centre of a heated bidding war between six clubs during the auction, was adjudged as the best player in last seasona s I-Leaague by the Football Players Association on Tuesday. Therefore it will be interesting to watch the dynamics between Lyngdoh and Zokora as they try to control the tempo of the game. Bikash Jairu and youngster Fanai Lalrempuia are two dark horses to start the matches but will definitely play some during the closing stages of the matches.
Forwards: . Yendrick Ruiz, Kalu Uche, Adrian Mutu, Jackichand Singh, Tuncay Sanli, Wesley Verhoek.
Last yeara s marquee David Trezegueta s immobility cost FC Pune City some matches and the management made sure they sign players who are mobile enough. Kalu Uche is a prime example of that line of thought. Uche plied his trade for Levante before moving to Pune City so his fitness can hardly be called into question but Yendrick Ruiz should definitely be under the scanner. Ruiz, had undergone a major surgery before signing for Pune City, would need to get his rhythm back but reports suggests otherwise.
Jackichand Singh had a blistering season with Royal Wahingdoh FC in the I-League that led to his debut for the Blue Tiger under Stephen Constantine. Jackichand was also in the centre of a bidding war during the auctions and was elated at his final price. Adrian Mutu, the marquee footballer, is quite well known for both his on-field and off-field activities and will be quite interesting which of the two version of Mutu turns up during the matches. Mutu, though, admitted he made some mistakes in the past and is determined to be Romaniaa s top goalscorer and surpass Gheorghe Hagia s goal scoring record in Romania colours .
David Platt has taken the reigns from Franco Colomba as the coach of Pune City and has tried to put his own idea across the team. Platt served as the assistant coach in Manchester City under Roberto Mancini before accepting his role as the Head Coach in FC Pune City. Platt has already used his influence to convince some of the players and staff to join him in his Indian adventure. Matt Radcliffe,worked under Louis van Gaal at Manchester United last season, is a prime example of Platt convincing some of the top notch staff to join alongside him.
Pune City, after missing out on the knockout stages last year, have made quite a few signings which look very good on paper. But matches arena t won on paper, it would depend on how quickly the players can adjust to the conditions. The preseason camp in Turkey was a place where Platt needed to have worked on team chemistry along with fitness. Provided the players settle in quickly and form some sort of chemistry between themselves, which is quintessential if they are to challenge for the title. TheHardTackle predicts a top two finish for the side from Pune.