HASC not short on motivation

Hosts keen to 'do it for Arun' against formidable Pune FC today

Fighting the reality of relegation, HASCface an on-song Pune FC in a vital I-League match at the Sree Kanteerava stadium on Sunday against the backdrop of the tragic death of team-mate Arun Kumar.

The Bangalore side has alarmingly slipped down the table from a seemingly comfortable position. With just one point from their last five matches, they currently lie 12th in the 14-team league with 20 points from 22 matches. Pune FC, by contrast, are comfortably placed in seventh spot with 26 points from 21 matches.

After playing Pune, HASChave the unenviable task of facing defending champions Dempo FC in Goa, before completing their engagements against title contenders Churchill Brothers and East Bengal at home.

Keeping that in mind, the Pune encounter -- the easiest of the four on paper -- assumes gigantic proportions. Three points will see them potentially climb to 11th above Air India, who also have a  tough run-in in their last four matches.

“We know how important the match is. Even though it is difficult to play in such a situation, we know that it is extremely vital that we come away tomorrow with full three points,”HASCcaptain JMurali said.

“We all understand we have let ourselves and our supporters down. Hopefully, we can win it for them and more importantly, dedicate the match in a positive way to Arun,” he added.

HASC go into the game with a full squad, but with serious concerns about the quality of their attacking group. They are the second lowest scorers in the I-League this season, having scored just 12 goals, one more than bottom club JCT.

They do have a glimmer of hope, though, having scored 1-0 victories twice -- in the Federation Cup in September 2010 and the I-League in January this year -- in their last two outings against Pune FC.

Buoyed by their come-from-behind 2-1 victory over East Bengal, Pune will look for another performance on the same lines as they eye a top-five slot in the points table.
“Our goal at the start of the season was to make the top five, and we will be going all out to reach there,” Derrick Pereira, Pune FCcoach, said during his team’s training session at the Kanteerava stadium.

The ground, which has been the cause of concern for most of the teams that have played here so far this season, was looking much better after heavy overnight rain on Friday and coach Pereira felt that it would help the improve quality of the match.

“I had heard a lot of bad things about the pitch from the teams that have played here. But the rain has been a blessing because it has really softened up the ground and made it a lot more playable.”

Captain Subrata Paul is in doubt after suffering a groin injury, but the team from Maharashtra will start favourites as the Aircraftmen look to ward off the demons on and off the field and come away with the much-needed three points.

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