PUNE: FC Pune City and Mumbai City FC will resume their rivalry in Balewadi on Wednesday following identical starts to the season.
Both teams lost their opening games, with Mumbai going down 0-2 to Bengaluru FC and Pune tasting a 2-3 defeat at the hands of Delhi Dynamos. The Maharashtra clubs hit back with victories, with Pune especially impressive in their 4-1 demolition of ATK in Kolkata.
Pune coach Ranko Popovic said he was disappointed that his team couldn’t win their first game at home but at the same time, he was incredibly pleased with their showing against the defending champions.
“It was a very crucial and important step for us to get our first three points and we will try to do the same at home. But it was especially important because this club doesn’t have a great record at winning away games,” the Serbian said.
The 50-year-old had stated before the tournament that he will ask his players to play entertaining football and while that was not the case in their opener, they surely produced some brilliant moments against ATK.
“Even in the pre-season, apart from the first match, we had goals in every other game. It was more a case of concentration than anything else. And we will try to do the same: score lots of goals, but in football you can never say what will happen,” he said.
Mumbai City’s Alexandre Guimarães will have to be cautious of the attacking threats of Pune City, especially Emiliano Alfaro and Marcelinho, who have both got two strikes each already.
The Costa Rican acknowledged Pune’s attacking prowess and hinted that his players will be careful on match day.
“The goals that they’ve scored came from very precise attacks. And when a team can do that, you have to make sure you don’t make mistakes because then they will punish you,” he said.
But at the same time, Guimarães added that his players were coming into the game with “different confidence”.
“Winning at home is always great and it is understandable that it gives the players a different confidence because they got the result they fought for,” he said.
Guimarães has been a master at organising his team in a tight formation but admitted that like most other managers, he is also trying to find “the right mix” in his team going forward into the season.
Mumbai will not be able to take comfort in another home game since they travel to Kerala Blasters next while Pune can hope to capture the imagination of their fans with back-to-back matches at Balewadi. Points from these two games will only consolidate their position in the top four as they already sit pretty in second position.
The Maharashtra derby will kick off at 8 PM on Wednesday, November 29.