Indian Super League 2017-18: FC Pune City aim for maiden semi-final appearance
FC Pune City have underwhelmed in the previous three editions of the Indian Super League (ISL) and will look forward to new beginnings thanks to a squad that has a good mix of experience and youthUpdated: Nov 15, 2017 16:58 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Having underwhelmed in the first three seasons of the Indian Super League (ISL), FC Pune City will be keen to make it past the regular season of the competition this term.
Armed with a very good mix of youth and experience, Pune City have an enviable squad that, on paper, looks good enough to go the distance.
However, as past experiences show, strong squads have in the past three seasons failed to deliver for Pune City.
They finished sixth, seventh and sixth in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively. This season, Pune City spent Rs. 3.63 crore in the ISL draft, with assistant coach Pradhyum Reddy being the key figure in the club’s recruitment.
Despite the austere spending, Pune City managed to get some of the best players available in the drafts. The key to Pune City’s season could be dependent on how well they negotiate their opening fixtures. The Ranko Popovic-coached side will play their first four games in eleven days’ time.
After opening their campaign at home against Delhi Dynamos on November 22, they will travel to Kolkata for a gruelling fixture against ATK four days later. They will return home for games against Mumbai City on November 29 and Chennaiyin FC on December 3.
2014: Finished sixth in the regular season.
2015: Finished seventh in the regular season.
2016: Finished sixth in the regular season.
Ranko Popovic has worked across the globe in a number of coaching roles. Having previously worked as an assistant at Sturm Graz in Austria and later Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Japan, he went on to take over as head coach at clubs in Serbia, Japan, Spain and Thailand.
Born in Serbia, Popovic also holds an Austrian passport. One of his notable assignments was as the head coach of Real Zaragoza, where he was in charge for a year.
He fell one step short of taking the club to the La Liga after losing in the play-off at the end of the season in the second tier.
At Pune City, Popovic will be assisted by Pradhyum Reddy, who was previously the head coach of Shillong Lajong and assistant coach of Bengaluru FC.
Key players to watch out for:
Vishal Kaith: Having received his senior team break with Shillong Lajong, Vishal Kaith impressed under Thangboi Singto at the northeastern club in the last two seasons, establishing himself as the first-choice custodian. Billed as one of India’s next biggest goalkeeping hopes, Kaith will be keen to make his mark with Pune City.
Marcelinho: A key part of Delhi Dynamos last season, Marcelinho scored ten goals and assisted five for the capital-based club, winning the Golden Boot in the process. Roped in by Pune City for this term, Marcelinho will be crucial to the club’s title hopes.
Emiliano Alfaro: Emiliano Alfaro played for NorthEast United last season, scoring five times for the club. The former Lazio forward will hope to link up well with Marcelinho up front and supply the goals for his side.
First Published: Nov 13, 2017 09:46 IST