FC Pune City take on Delhi Dynamos on Wednesday as they kickstart their ISL campaign with different targets. While Delhi, who have been semi-finalists on the past two seasons, would aim for glory this time, a cautious Pune side would ideally hope for a top-four finish first before planning further.
In their six encounters in Indian Super League (ISL) history, FC Pune City
"I'm excited about our first match. We have had enough time to prepare. The players are also very excited. I hope we'll be able to do what we want to," the Serbian tactician said.
Responding to a question on the advantage of playing their first match at home, Popovic said, "I don't think it is an advantage. If you want to win, you have to play well both home and away. Yes, at home we'll have more support to win all three points. But that doesn't change the way we'll play."
The 50-year-old manager, who is in India for the first time, comes in 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 playoffs. Last year, in his first season in Thailand, he led Buriram United FC to Thai Cup glory. FC Pune City fans will be hoping that the Serbian will have the same effect on their team this season.
The new coach has plenty of firepower at his disposal. Last season's top scorer Marcelino, who made the switch from Delhi to Pune along with Kean Lewis, will be the ones to watch out for. The duo netted 14 times last season.
For Delhi Dynamos, it's all about building on from last season. The Delhi side have made it to the playoffs in two of the three previous editions of the ISL, but they are yet to make it to the finals. And for their new Spanish manager Miguel Ángel Portugal, that will be the target.
"It is important to start well. This first match is the test for what is my team is capable of. I think the competition is very balanced. The way I see it, anyone can win it,” Portugal said while addressing a press conference on the eve of the game.
Even though the team has lost some of their mercurial players from last season, Delhi have brought in suitable replacements in the summer. Nigerian forward Kalu Uche will be the main man for Portugal's team as far as attack is concerned. The Dynamos also have brought in Netherland striker Guyon Fernandez to compliment Uche.
Commenting on the opposition in tomorrow's game, the Spaniard said, "Pune is a good team. They have some very good players in like Marcelinho and Alfaro in their squad. It's a difficult place (Pune) to come and play. We will try to win for me that is important. But this is the first game so we'll see how it goes. We'll also have to uncover how other teams in the competition play."
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