After a dismal start to their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign, having lost both their opening games, Kerala Blasters have earned four points from their last two. One of the major factors in their recent run of form has been the vociferous support for Kerala at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
The Yellows will not however, have the aforementioned support on Monday as they come up against a Pune side that will be hungry to grab all honours.
The home team head into the game on the back of a disappointing 0-1 defeat to NorthEast United. It looked like Pune were in with a chance to salvage a point out of the game but Emiliano Alfaro scored the winner late into the second half. The result would have come as a disappointment, especially after the 2-1 win versus FC Goa.
Fast forward to Monday and Pune will be keen on earning their first points at home and they will need their attacking contingent to deliver, which they haven’t so far. The likes of Tato, Anibal Zurdo and Gustavo Oberman have looked less than impressive, scoring no goals amongst them so far.
The only positive for the Hrithik Roshan co-owned side has been the link-up play between marquee player Mohamed Sissoko and Jonatan Lucca. The former Liverpool midfielder brings in power and has a good passing range while Lucca’s movement and vision is what keeps them ticking. The duo will shoulder the responsibility to dissect Kerala’s organized defending.
The home side will miss the services of midfielder Lenny Rodrigues due to fever and centre-back Eduardo Ferreira who is suspended. Pune could line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
In the backline, an all Indian presence could be seen as Bheke and Narayan would be deployed out wide with Gouramangi and Augustin in the centre, guarded by marquee man Mohamed Sissoko in a number six role.
The goal scoring responsibility would once again be on the shoulders of Oberman and Tato.
The visiting Kerala Blasters will be confident of their chances, after earning their first win of the season against high-flying Mumbai City FC.
It seems as though Steve Coppell has found his best XI after a difficult start to the season and the former Manchester City manager will not look to make many changes.
In midfield, Azrack Mahamat and Mehtab Hossain looked impressive but will have their work cut out against a FC Pune City side that likes to keep possession.
Kerala’s defense has not conceded in the last two games and was instrumental in them earning their first win of the season. Aaron Hughes’ goal-line clearance off Sony Norde’s shot was a testimony to the Northern Ireland international’s credentials. Hughes will be partnered by the impressive Cedric Hengbart at the heart of the defense and the duo will look to fend off the threat posed by Pune’s attacking midfielders.
Coppell won't be making any forced changes to his defense or midfield. However, he has been experimenting with his forwards and wide players in every game in order to keep them fit throughout the course of the league.
The former Manchester City manager deploys several attacking players in his first eleven while Pune do not have a foreign defender within their ranks for Monday’s clash. How the Indian defenders manage to keep the Kerala attackers at bay would play a massive role in determining the outcome of the tie.
Monday’s fixture will be the last of a Antonio Habas’ four game ban and FC Pune City will look to welcome the Spaniard with a win under their belt. Kick off from the Balewadi Stadium is at 7 PM IST.