Pune: It is still September and the first match in the second edition of Indian Super League (ISL) is yet to be kicked off but with a rich line-up of stars, both past and present, that adorn FC Pune City, title talks are already swirling in the air.
You have to admit, FC Pune City, even though the city has an abysmal record when it comes to their teams in sports leagues, look serious challengers, but will they be able to pull it off?
Jog your memory back to the first edition of ISL and FC Pune City had a team that was as good on paper, if not better, than anyone else in the league. French World Cup winner David Trezeguet was the marquee player and joining him were players of proven pedigree like Jermaine Pennant and Kostas Katsouranis. Yet, FC Pune City floundered, failing to qualify for the semifinals.
Small wonder, this year, failure to qualify for the knock-out stage of the competition is unfathomable. In fact, if voices emerging out of the franchise is any indication, this squad is built to become champions.
Why not. This year Diwali is expected early in Pune with an attacking line-up that is sure to produce plenty of fireworks. Romanian star and the country’s joint highest goalscorer, Adrian Mutu, will be keen to set the pace after failing to turn up at Pune on time. The former Chelsea FC and Roma striker will lead the strikeforce and joining him will be Turkish striker TuncaySanli, whose goals carried Turkish giants Fenerbahce for several seasons and helped them to three Super League titles. If former Manchester City assistant coach, David Platt, now marquee manager at Pune, need reinforcements, Yendrick Ruiz can be more than a safe bet.
And if that is still not enough, he will have players like Didier Zokoro, Ivory Coast’s most capped player, India international EugenesonLyngdoh, Jackichand Singh and IsrailGurung all lend a helping hand from midfield.
Defenders Roger Johnson, Diego Colotto and former England left-back Nicholas Shorey, all with enough experience of playing in top European leagues, will lend solidity at the back, helped, of course, by India defenders Gouramangi Singh, DharmarajRavanan, PritamKotal and Gurjinder Kumar.
“Every team is a worthy rival. The league is pretty new in that sense, so all teams start as favourites,” says Platt, quick to dismiss the favourites tag and like a good manager ward off unwanted pressure before the start of the season.
Pune’s assembly of gold mine is not restricted to the field. On the bench, they Massimo Battara, a former Italian goalkeeper who worked Sampdoria and Bologna, as goalkeeping coach and sports scientist Niall Clark.
FC Pune City will begin their campaign when they battle for honours and Maharashtrian pride in the derby against Mumbai City FC at the Balewadi stadium on October 5.
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