We have to be smart: Karim Bencherifa

Pune FC have been firing all cylinders in the Hero I-League this season and this blazing start sees them sit just two points off the top having played a game less compared to leaders and champions Bengaluru FC whom they beat on the opening day.

But Karim Bencherifa’s men face an awkward trip to in-form Mumbai FC side on Sunday who are unbeaten at home and look likely to do so for the entire season.

But the Red Lizards have been racking up the goals while managing to leak out only a paltry sum of goals as highlighted by coach Karim Bencherifa who seemed delighted with the start his club had made. “I am delighted with the start. I am very happy with the way my players have expressed themselves on the pitch. We have been scoring a lot of goals and I guess we are the second best defense in the league which is great. We are always trying to play entertaining football so that more fans could come and watch us play”.

Karim Bencherifa who has formerly won the I-League with Salgaocar knows it too well how it’s done and hence seemed vary of the fact that the break might disrupt his side’s momentum. “For a team like ours, the break could be bad. We had a nice momentum going and had an unbeaten run before the break. I wish we could continue with that and so I have readied my players for it, so we should be fine”.

But Karim Bencherifa made the best possible use of the break and got his team playing a few friendlies at Cooperage to make them get used to the artificial surface. “In a sense, the break helped us ease a few injury concerns and also allowed us to play a few friendlies here and that helped”.

The former Mohun Bagan coach was quick to appreciate Mumbai FC’s hospitality who gave them an evening session under the floodlights to practice ahead of the game. “I am taking this opportunity to thank everyone at Mumbai FC for the wonderful hospitality. They have ensured we have a good experience here. I would also like to congratulate them and WIFA for a wonderful venue which sees the fans really up close with the pitch, making it an electric atmosphere”.
But Karim Bencherifa warned his players not to expect any such hospitality on the pitch. “I have been watching few Mumbai FC games and they are a nice compact side and won’t be giving us an easy game. So we need to be at our best”.

Mumbai FC have given everyone plenty of problems with their long throws and set pieces and Karim Bencherifa believes his side needs to be smart and play to their own strengths and not their opponents. “They have their set of strengths and weaknesses and set-pieces are definitely one of their strengths, at the same time we have our strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is to play to your strength and be smart. The team which is smarter will come out on top”.

We will know who will be smarter come Sunday evening but Karim Bencherifa’s men have proved time and again this season that no challenge is beyond them. Having firmly established themselves as one of the contenders for the title, Pune FC will not be looking at anything but a win as a positive result.

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