Pune: FC Pune City is at the doorsteps of their maiden Indian Super League (ISL) play-offs for quite a while now. They are banging on that door ever since their pulsating 1-1 draw against already-qualified Bengaluru FC 9 days ago.
Despite the fact that they are virtually there, mathematically they are still not there as there is an outside chance that they will still miss out on playing the semi-finals.
All these permutations and combinations can easily get on one’s nerves. But the Stallions have a perfect opportunity to book their place in the last four when they take on stuttering FC Goa at the Balewadi Sports Complex on Sunday, in what will be team’s final home of the fourth edition of the ISL.
FC Pune City is comfortably sitting second in the standings with 29 points from 16 games and need only a point from their next two games to qualify. Come Sunday, if they manage to beat FC Goa, they will have 32 points against their name, which would also guarantee them a second place at the end of the league stage, even if they lose the final game against Delhi Dynamos, and Chennaiyin FC and Jamshedpur FC win their remaining matches due to their superior goal difference.
On the other hand, FC Goa have no such luxury as they will have to win their all remaining matches, including an uphill task of beating Pune at home and hope that other results go their way.
The common factor between Ranko Popovic’s FC Pune City and Sergio Lobera’s FC Goa is the two team’s firepower up front. Last season’s Golden Boot winner Marcelinho and Uruguian striker Emiliano Alfaro leading the attack, FC Pune City have scored most number of goals at home (16), while FC Goa have scored staggering 30 goals from 15 outings as Ferran Corominas leads the charts for this season’s golden boot award with 13 goals against his name.
But the leaky defence has cost Goa dearly as they are the only side this season to have failed to keep a single clean sheet. Despite the fact that Pune will be sans Alfaro, who will miss the game due to suspension, herculean task awaits the visitors as they look to keep hosts at bay.
On the other hand, FC Pune City has kept six clean sheets as the custodian Vishal Keith leads the race for Golden Glove with well-marshalled backline in front of him. Corominas and his compatriot Manuel Lanzarote (8 goals) will certainly test the Stallion’s backline while hoping that their own rear guard doesn’t crack.
Even the form guide doesn’t look good for the Goan side as their last win was over a month ago against Kerala Blasters, while out of last five outings they have lost three and drawn two. The only blip in the Pune’s form guide is stoppage time loss against Blasters in their last home game. But as things stand, FC Pune City would love to gift Orange Army a win and a place in the last four on what will be their last home match of the season.