Pune, minus Habas, to take on Mumbai

The FC Pune City dugout will miss the scowling, screaming presence of Antonio Habas for its Hero ISL 2016 opener against Mumbai City FC on Monday. The Spaniard is serving a four-match suspension, enforced by the AIFF Disciplinary Committee for aggressive behaviour in last season’s concluding tie.

Fellow countryman Miguel is in charge till then. “We knew the coach will not be on the pitch,” said the FCPC deputy coach and that Habas’s non-availability would not blunt FCPC’s approach.

“He will not be there, but teams under him show discipline on the ground. There is a gameplan and we are expected to execute it,” said attacking midfielder Izumi Arata. The India international was under the Spaniard at Atletico de Kolkata last season.

The Sissoko question
Meamwhile, marquee player Mohammed Sissoko, landed in Pune on Sunday morning and later trained with the squad.

Miguel did not commit when asked about the Juventus and Liverpool star’s likelihood of being included in the playing squad. “He is available for selection. I cannot say if he will play or not,” replied Habas’s deputy.

Alexandre Guimaraes, head coach in the rival camp, expressed satisfaction with the players in hand. “Whether it is the locals or foreigners, the understanding of what I want from them is the same,” said the Costa Rican, in charge of a new-look Mumbai City.

He was answering a question on the difference, if any, noticed between the foreigners and domestic talent.

Forlan-Jackichand bonding
Diego Forlan, the biggest name this season, is winning admirers, among whom is India winger Jackichand Singh. “Forlan guided us during the camp and would correct our mistakes,” said Jackichand, who switched over from Pune to Mumbai after his debut ISL season.

“Changing clubs is becoming common for players, my job is to give 100 per cent for my team,” he added.

Guimaraes insisted on a translation of Jackichand’s replies in Hindi.

When the talk turned to Forlan, the coach pointed out that the three-time World Cupper from Uruguay had developed a liking for the nippy Indian, whose pace down the flanks and shooting skill won him adoring Pune fans.

The home team is without the influential Eugeneson Lyngdoh, while Mumbai is missing match-winner Sunil Chhetri and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh.

These three are away with Bengaluru FC for the AFC Cup.