Pune take on holders in their own backyard to enhance semi berth

ATK players take to the field to warm up during match 9 of the Hero Indian Super League between ATK and FC Pune City held at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium, Kolkata, India on the 26th November 2017 Photo by: Ron Gaunt / ISL / SPORTZPICS

Pune, Jan 19: A two-way contest is on cards when ATK face off host FC Pune City in the  Hero India Superleague, at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Saturday.

Host, Pune will be looking to set aside their bad run at home while, visitors will be looking to avenge their home defeat in this 4th edition of the championship which has picked pace in the latter session of the championship.

“Yes, we will look ahead for the win, which is more important, and they (ATK) are a good side, said Pune City assistant coach Vladica Grujic of the side which beat them 4-1 in their own backyard.

The outcome of this encounter will set the path ahead in the championship, especially for the champions ATK who have not done well in this year’s contest. Pune have done reasonably well but are still to convince that they are the real contenders for a place in the knockout stage.

With 16 points from 10 matches, they are currently placed third on the table but will know that there are others circling around to knock them off and occupy that slot.

“We didn’t play as good as the first half, we had opportunities but didn’t make use of them,” said Pune City assistant coach Vladica Grujic, adding, “they would like to work towards not to concede goals in second half.” From the 11 goals conceded by Pune City so far, ten have come to haunt them in the second half.

Both teams know that semi-final spots are limited and they would need to displace the other if they are to work their way to the top. Pune, in particular, will be even more determined after losing their previous clash against Chennaiyin FC by a solitary goal.

That defeat at home would have hurt the defending champions ATK but they have since then grown from strength to strength. Teddy Sheringham’s side struggled during the early part of the season and tasted their first win only during the fifth game. The slow start hampered ATK’s progress but they now have a chance to catch up in the league.

 “We are here to make amends to the result. We had to deal with the 4-1 loss in the first leg and we want to change that here,” Sheringham said.

Sheringham is aware of his team’s low scoring record this season and is looking at setting things right in this game. “We haven’t scored goals as much as we would like to. But it’s not a reflection on our strikers. It’s tough to score goals, and we are trying to work on it. We have the strength at the front and we are looking at everything to improve in this game.”

ATK since their last win over NorthEast United, have strengthened their side considerably with the arrival of David Cotterill (winger), Martin Paterson (striker) and Soram Poirei (goalkeeper). Star striker Robbie Keane is recovering too, providing Sheringham with the perfect ammunition to gun down a place among the top four.

At the end of the day after a not a very good 1st leg, the second leg of the championship promises surprise as it is still not clear which of the four teams would make the cut into the semifinal, and that makes this outing for Pune and Kolkata turf on Saturday very important.

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