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Pune FC look to extend unbeaten home run in I-League

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Pune, April 10 : Pune FC will be hoping to build on their unbeaten home run against East Bengal when they host the Kolkata side in an I-League football tournament Round-16 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi on Saturday.

Going into the game on the back of a hard-fought 1-0 win over Salgaocar FC, Pune FC will be looking to overcome the challenge of a hectic schedule as they play their third game in a span of eight days.

But they will be buoyed by their impressive record in the tournament at home so far.

They are unbeaten at home which has seen them win four and draw three of their seven home games this season. The 15 points earned thus puts them only behind leaders Mohun Bagan (19 pts, 7 matches) in performance in home games.

The clash between fourth-placed Pune FC (20 points) and fifth-placed East Bengal (16 points) is expected to be evenly contested as both sides are chasing to be in the top three.

Mohun Bagan are at the top of the standings with 25 points from 11 matches.

A win will give Pune FC a chance to move up into the second place in the standings and coach Karim Bencherifa wants his side to be ready for the a tough match.

"So far the boys have handled every situation well and have done their job. The fact that we are still unbeaten at home is a big positive," Bencherifa said in a release on Friday.

"Also we got an important result in the midweek against Salgaocar and that gives us a big boost going into the game against East Bengal."

"East Bengal is a strong side. They boast one of the best squads if not the best squad in the I-League and we are expecting a tough match," he added.

Pune will be banking on attackers Darko Nikac, Thongkhosiem Haokip and Ryuji Sueoka to fire. The trio have combined well in recent matches and are promising to play better with each game.

Pune though will be without the midfield duo of Edgar Marcelino (injured) and the suspended Dhanpal Ganesh.

Visitors East Bengal come into the game on the back of a 3-0 win over Bharat FC and will be banking heavily on their Nigerian striking pair of top-scorer Ranty Martins (13 goals) and Dudu Omagbemi (3 goals). The duo were on the scoresheet against Bharat FC on Wednesday and will provide a tough challenge for the Pune FC defence.

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