FC Pune City will be pleased to have chief coach Antonio Habas in the dugout for their home clash against Chennaiyin FC in Pune on Sunday but still need to figure out how to avoid their worst-ever start to a Hero Indian Super League campaign.
Pune have always had a good start to their campaign while playing at home. In the first year, they won two of the first three matches at home and repeated the feat last season as well. But this time around, they have been caught on the back foot.
Pune have picked up just a point from their first three matches at home and it will be something that coach Habas needs to address at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Balewadi-Pune.
Even their solitary victory in this year’s campaign came from a last-minute winner against FC Goa at Nehru Stadium in Goa last week.
“We are on the way to improving. At least we didn’t lose, we drew (against Kerala Blasters). I think we played much better and we deserved to win. We will improve and we will work harder for our next game,” said assistant coach Miguel, who will now hand over charge to Habas who returns after serving a four-match suspension.
It will not be easy for the hosts against Chennaiyin FC. Previous records show that the defending champions have never lost against FC Pune City, winning three out of the four matches. The other clash ended with both teams sharing the spoils.
Worse for FC Pune City, their rivals have struck form after a disjointed start. They have picked up two convincing victories in a row against FC Goa and NorthEast United FC, and if they managed to pick up full points against FC Pune City, they will become the first team to win three matches in a row in this edition of the ISL.
“What makes the difference between winning and losing is the mentality. After the Delhi game (which we lost) we knew that our performance was bad and we changed our attitude and here is the result,” said Chennaiyin FC coach Marco Materazzi.
Not everything, however, has gone according to plan for Materazzi. His best Indian striker, Jeje Lalpekhlua, is far from the high standards he set last year, scoring six goals and three assists. This year, he has drawn a blank but given his past record against Pune – he has scored twice, including the winner when the two teams last met – Materazzi will be tempted to keep the faith in Jeje.
A win for Chennaiyin FC can take them to the top of the table, while Pune City will hope to jump to the top four and their nightmare at home will soon be forgotten.