Pune, Feb 25: Pune FC will need to be cautious of an in-form Viva Kerala if they are to extend their three-match unbeaten streak in the I-League.
Viva’s 7-1 home win over Air India, incidentally the biggest margin of victory in the league, must have given them a much-needed boost ahead of their round 16 clash against Derrick Pereira’s boys at the Balewadi Sports Complex turf here tomorrow.
However, a factor that would be playing on Viva’s mind is their inability to force a win in away matches.
Of their six away matches, Viva suffered four defeats while two ended in draws.
Pune FC are currently in ninth position and have played a game less than Viva, lying 12th with 11 points.
The home side will be playing after a 21-day break and, according to Pereira, the break helped the injured players to recover.
“The period was just right for injured players to recover and the rest to get their focus back after starting the season early,” Pereira said.
Pune FC are likely to be bolstered by the return of striker Mandjou Keita, who pulled a hamstring during the side’s last home game, against Indian Arrows, here.
Apart from Keita, medio K Ajayan, who failed to make the cut against Mohun Bagan in Kolkata due to niggles, has also recovered.
“One cannot underestimate any team. We need to get into the match with the right attitude and that is, play to win,” Pereira said.
Having beaten Viva twice last season, Pune rode on Sunil Kumar’s last-gasp injury-time equaliser when Viva played hosts.
“Viva is a young sideg, good on the wings, and has a very organised defence. And with midfielder NP Pradeep joining them, Viva cannot be taken lightly,” Pereira cautioned.