ISL semi-final: Pune handicapped by coach Popovic's absence

Bengaluru FC will enjoy psychological advantage when they take on a coach-less FC Pune City in the second-leg semi-final of the Indian Super League, here tomorrow.

Bengaluru will be eyeing to finish the match in regulation time after being held to a goalless draw in the first leg.

For Pune, not having their coach and master tactician Ranko Popovic on the reserve bench might affect their morale.

Popovic was suspended for his utterances against the decisions of the referee and match officials. He has had the habit of getting into trouble with the administrators.

Popovic has made a big impact as he guide them to the semi-finals of the ongoing edition, despite not being involved in the any of the recruitment before the season.

Young Indian players like Vishal Kaith, Sartak Golui, Isaac Vanmalsawma, Ashique Kuruniyan, Rohit Kumar and Sahil Panwar, will be missing services of Popovic, as he was the key factor to Pune's success.

In the first leg, Bengaluru failed to breach the defence of the rivals as they hardly allowed their top goal scorers Venezualan Miku and captain Sunil Chhetri to create chances.

However, the performance of Chhetri, Miku, Udanta Singh and other star players, have been extremely good before their home fans.

In comparison to Pune, Bengaluru have been the most impressive team this season, with Chhetri and Miku, having scored 24 goals between them.

Miku stands second on highest goal-scorers' list by scoring 14 goals and Chhetri stands fifth with ten goals to his credit.

Bengaluru will be taking a cue from their earlier win against Pune at Sree Kanteerva Stadium, where Miku's brace and Chhetri's stoppage time strike had helped them come back from a goal behind.

Apart from possessing some top class strikers and effective mid-fielders, Bengaluru boasts of having India's No 1 goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in their ranks.

Sandhu had been instrumental in bringing up some spectacular saves at crucial stages of the matches.

Just as Bengaluru boasts of firebrand strikers, Pune has in Marcelinho a top-class forward, who forged a fine understanding with fellow-South Americans - Emiliano Alfaro of Uruguay and Brazilian compatriot Diego Carlos, who all have served out suspensions from games.

The trio would pose a constant danger to the Bengaluru defence with assists from the likes of Adil Khan and Marcos Tebar in the midfield.

Pune will be eager to make amends in the second leg semifinals after having drew with the hosts.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)