The South Asian Times

24 May 2019 17:18 PM

ISL: Pune look to setting the record straight


New Delhi, Nov 14: FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovic wants his team to score one goal more than the opposition in the upcoming 2017-18 season of the Indian Super League (ISL).

In the previous editions of the ISL, Pune have found wins hard to come by and the reasons are there for everyone to see. They have scored only 42 goals in 42 ISL encounters, conceding 56 goals in the process.

Coincidentally, Pune have managed to win just four games in each of their previous three ISL campaigns. Not the kind of form needed to seal a place in the play-offs.

So to set things right this season, the club have adopted a new approach. An aggressive one at that. Popovic, who replaced Antonio López Habas as manager in the summer, has laid down a pretty simple strategy for the season ahead: score one more goal than your opponent. 

The new man in-charge at Pune has promised to play "attractive and aggressive" football in the upcoming season. 

"What I want, what we can, and what is expected is the question here. If there is a big gap, then it's a big problem. We have to bring all the three things closer. My way to play until now was to lead to the game. I don't believe in waiting or counter-attacks. I like to play football to win the game, always score one more goal than your opposition. Our style, I hope, will be attractive, aggressive and to lead the game," the Serb said ahead of his team's opening match against Delhi Dynamos on November 22.

Before coming to India, Popovic has had coaching stints in Serbia, Spain, Japan, and Thailand. The 50-year-old comes with a proven track record and he doesn't usually need much time to get started.

In his first season in charge at second division Spanish club Real Zaragoza, he took his team to the play-offs. Last year, in his first season in Thailand, he led Buriram United FC to Thai Cup glory. 

While Popovic is yet to be tested on Indian soil, his shining past record has given high hopes to FC Pune City. The pressure is definitely on Popovic but the new coach isn't shying away from flaming their hopes further up with only days remaining until the start of the new season.

"There is always pressure to perform, whether you are taking over from a coach or managing a newly formed team. In the end, the idea is to win, whether you have been around with the team for long or you are just joining," he conceded.

Even though Popovic missed the ISL draft to pick players, he can't be too unhappy with the choice made by his predecessor Habas. Popovic's team now boasts of last season's top scorer Marcelinho in the attack. Uruguayan striker Emiliano Alfaro has come in to add more firepower to the team. 

To add steel at the back, Pune have signed experienced 32-year-old central defender Rafael López Gómez. The Spaniard has played for top Spanish league clubs Getafe and Valladolid in the past. 

"I am here with a new bunch of people. We only have two players from the last season, the coaching staff is new, most of the players are new. The aim is to first make a good team out of the players we have. But one thing is sure, we will always aim to score one goal more than our opponent," Popovic said.

Having made their intentions clear, Pune will be hoping to get the right results this season. What they have got is an intentful manager and a proven set of players, but what remains to be seen is if they can come all together to make it happen.


Domestic players: Kamaljit Singh, Harpreet Singh Sahota, Gurtej Singh, Adil Ahmed Khan, Ajay Singh, Baljit Sahni, Vishal Kaith, Wayne Vaz, Sarthak Golui, Rohit Kumar, Pawan Kumar, Kean Lewis, Muhammed Ashique Kuruniyan, Jewel Raja Shaikh, Anuj Kumar, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai and Isaac Vanmalsawma.

International players: Rafael Lopez, Marcos Tebar, Jonatan Lucca, Robertino Pugliara, Emiliano Alfaro, Marcelo Leite Pereira, Diego Carlos and Damir Grgic.

Reserve players: Bilal Khan, Nitesh Aswani, Sajid Hossain, Gani Ahmed Nigam and Sahil Panwar.

Update: 14 Nov, 2017