Team Profile: Gudjohnsen blow to Pune City’s top-four ambition
FC Pune City would be targeting a top-four spot in the Indian Super League (ISL) after their failed endeavours in the first two editions of the football tournament but would have to do without injured marquee man Eidur Gudjohnsen.
The former Iceland international, who represented his country in Euro 2016 in June-July, was expected to be their mainstay in offence.
At 38, age was not his strong suit, but Pune banked on his experience and a proven scoring ability, both in the air and on the ground, to keep them ahead.
But a left leg ankle injury, which kept him away from pre-tournament training and practice matches, has ruled him out entirely.
Gudjohnsen was not the only foreigner to be on the treatment table, Cameronian midfielder Andre Bikey, nursing a tendon injury, has also been ruled out from action.
Pune would now have to blood in last-minute replacements before their opening match against Mumbai City FC on October 3 at home.
Additional responsibility would be thrust upon new forwards — Spaniard Tato and Senegalese Momar Ndoye — in Gudjohnsen’s absence.
Pune have tried to remove any negativity associated from their previous two disappointing campaigns, finishing seventh and sixth, going as far as unveiling a new jersey for third edition of the tournament, also seeking Lord Ganesh’s blessings after returning from their pre-tournament training in Madrid.
Apart from resorting to these cosmetic changes for Lady Luck, they took bold and definitive steps to make a statement of intent ahead of the tournament.
Hiring Spanish coach Jose Antonio Habas, who guided rivals Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) to title glory in the first edition of ISL in 2014, has been the highlight of their off-season transfer campaign.
The no-nonsense Spaniard has a reputation of being a hard taskmaster and a strict disciplinarian that helps him command complete control of the team.
The 59-year-old also distinguished himself driving ATK’s title defence last year, faltering only in the semi-finals, but not before putting up a spirited performance.
That made him a much-sought after coach among the ISL franchises and Pune have secured his services, to replace Englishman David Platt, after reportedly agreeing to a hefty financial package.
Pune would be further depleted in the opening match as Habas’ would begin serving a four-match touchline ban for his improper conduct the second leg of the ATK’s semi-final against Chennaiyin FC last year.
Pune’s holistic approach in assembling a balanced squad is reflected in the addition two-time ISL champion goalkeeper Edel Bete, who has shifted allegiance from holders Chennaiyin FC.
He would be eyeing a hat-trick of ISL trophies and was aware of its possibility.
“Yes, absolutely. I hope along with FC Pune City we are third time lucky. That’s the goal for me,” Bete was quoted as saying by ISL’s website.
“I am at a stage in my career where taking up new challenges is my motivation. Both Atletico de Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC were great experiences. I wanted to continue my pursuit for a new challenge.”
Pune have also signed former Barcelona midfielder Pitu alongised home-based medios Lenny Rodrigues, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Francis Fernandes and Arata Izumi.
Winger Sanju Pradhan and defender Gouramangi Singh, two veterans in the Indian football circuit, also were acquired alongside relatively young defenders Narayan Das and Rahul Bheke, whose performances could be crucial in the overall context.
Goalkeepers: Edel Bete, Arindam Bhattacharya, Vishal Kaith
Defenders: Eduardo Ferreira, Gouramangi Singh, Dharmaraj Ravanan, Rahul Bheke, Yumnam Raju, Narayan Das, Augustine Melwyn Fernandes, Zodingliana Ralte
Midfielders: Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Arata Izumi, Lenny Rodrigues, Bruno Arias, Jonatan Lucca, Sanju Pradhan, Pitu Comadevall, Francis Fernandes, Zodingliana Ralte, Momar N doye, Manish Maithani
Forwards: Anibal Zurdo Rodrguez, Jesus Rodrigues, Gustavo Oberman
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