AFC Cup 2014: Pune FC face crucial Kitchee SC challenge

Kitchee vs Pune FC
Pune FC team practicing Mong Kok stadium, Courtesy: Pune FC

Pune FC take on Hong Kong giants Kitchee SC in their first-ever overseas match in an AFC Cup 2014 Round-2 encounter at the Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Like Pune FC, the hosts Kitchee too have qualified for the continental competition after finishing runners-up in their domestic league. The Group-H clash will be a crucial one for Pune FC who are keen to strengthen their qualification hopes after being held to a 2-2 draw at home by Myanmar’s Nay Pyi Taw FC in the opener. On the other hand, Kitchee began this season’s AFC Cup campaign with a 5-0 win over Singapore’s Tampines Rovers in an away game. Moreover, Kitchee not only sit a massive twelve points clear at the top of the Hong Kong first division league, but are on a hot ten match unbeaten run stretching back to November which includes nine wins and a draw. This is Kitchee’s third consecutive and fourth overall appearance in the AFC Cup. Till date, their best result in the competition is the quarterfinal appearance in 2013 where they lost 4-2 to Jordan’s Al-Faisaly FC over two legs (2012 - Round of 16; 2008 – Group Stage).

Speaking at the official pre-match Press Conference, Kitchee Coach Chu Chi Kwong said, “Spanish striker Juan Belencoso got injured in the last domestic league match. He is getting better and if he is able to play tomorrow’s match, it will be good for the team.”

Talking about his opponents, Kwong added, “They have a good player in Riga Mustapha who has played overseas. He is very fast, but football is a team game and not individual.”

Kitchee skipper Kwan Yee Lo was confident ahead of the game and said, “No need to worry about the weather. We scored a big win in the last AFC Cup match and also aim to win tomorrow.”

Pune FC come into the game after a series of three consecutive draws in all competitions and will be hoping to break that run. Coach Mike Snoei has called an unchanged squad from the previous game and has decided to name the playing-XI on the morrow as he expects an improved performance. Being cautious, Snoei played the cards close to his chest while elucidating, “From the information we gathered, Kitchee are a good side. However, we are also prepared for the game.” Pune FC reached Hong Kong earlier on Monday and have completed two training sessions in cold chilly conditions, something Snoei was happy about. “This is nice weather, very much Dutch. I like it. It is great for football. The stadium is nice, not big and will be great to play. Overall, it is a very good atmosphere. We are young team with promoted players from the Academy. The AFC Cup is a fantastic tournament for my team,” he said.

Snoei further added, “In these competitions every team aims to win at home. We had one draw in our home, we were unlucky.”

Pune FC skipper Anas Edathodika, who missed four games since February, returned to the squad in the last game but remained an unused substitute. However, the defender is almost back to being fully fit and might start tomorrow. “The AFC Cup is a tough tournament. We want to do well and we are prepared for the game. It is important we do well,” explained Anas.

Post the press conference, Pune FC had a final practice session at the Mong Kok stadium at 8.00 PM (Hong Kong Time) under a light drizzle.

The match kicks off at 8.00 PM Hong Kong time (5.30 PM IST – Live in India on Star Sports 4).
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About Debraj Banerjee

Hi, I am Debraj Banerjee from Adra, West Bengal. A keen follower of Indian football and always an optimist that the game will get the recognition it truely deserves. What we ask from you is your support and one day the dream might turn true. Fingers crossed for Indian football. Cheers!

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