PUNE: These are still early days in the Hero I-League season, but Pune FC would like to forget the Round 5 away loss to McDowell Mohun Bagan and get on from where they left off at the Balewadi Sports Complex Stadium.

Pune FC’s pride might have taken a hit, but as they prepare to face Dempo Sports Club on the morrow, coach Karim Bencherifa is confident that the team will dominate the show at home under lights.

“Every match is a different match and every time we cannot play the way we played one particular match. There will be many more matches where the winning margin will be just one goal,” said Bencherifa on the eve of the Round 6 match.

Pune FC is holding on to the No 1 position on the I-League table with 10 points thanks to their better goal difference. Royal Wahingdoh of Shillong too has 10 points but their goal difference is -1 as against Pune FC’s +5.

The home side have had a great start to the competition having lost just one of their opening five games. What is more significant is the fact that they have scored a whopping 12 goals exhibiting their attacking prowess and hunger.

To put things in perspective, the team with the closest tally has 6 goals against their name. On the other hand, their opponents boast an equally impressive record – albeit on the defensive front. The tightly knit Goan back four have asserted their presence time and again as they have let just one goal into the net in their first four games.

While both coaches would be aware that stats have little role to play on the match day, it would be interesting to see if Karim Bencherifa prefers to continue using his attacking style or focus more on his side’s defensive frailties.

The back four have not been as effective as their attack and most of it can be attributed to the fact that the Red Lizards like to attack in numbers exposing their defense.

The Maha Derby was a prime example of this, where despite being in the driver’s seat for majority of the game, a late goal from Mumbai FC gave the home side jitters towards the end, before bagging all 3 points. The Moroccan gaffer, however, remains unfazed by this and goes on to explain, “An attacking side will always concede.”

With Arata at their disposal, Pune FC have been able to control the tempo of the game – accelerating and decelerating their speed at will. Adding to that, the intimidating triumvirate of Marcelino, Haokip and Nikac whose one touch pass and move style coupled with good understanding has given their opponents nightmares.

His Australian counter-part has his own areas to worry about. Boasting a very well organized defense has kept them away from any defeats so far. However, Arthur Papas would want to up the ante and urge his attack to convert those draws into wins.

The arrival of the star striker Tolgay Ozbey would be a big boost for the Goan outfit in their search for goals. The coach will be equally pleased with the Indian contingent who has not been far too behind with three getting their names on the scoresheet in their only win against Sporting Clube de Goa.

The coach did not hold back in addressing this. “Out of 18 players, eight of them were under the age of 23 and we finished the game with only one foreigner (Carlos Hernandez)”.

A win would see the Red Lizards cushion their lead at the summit by 3 points. A win for Dempo, on the other hand, would see them jump right onto the third spot.

Match KO: @ 7 PM IST

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