The third season of the Indian Super League is underway as teams ready themselves for their respective assaults on the silverware. FC Pune City are one of the most exciting teams on paper and there are quite a few names in their squad who could set ISL 2016 on fire.
Having finished the last two seasons championing mediocrity, the onus this year will be on the star names in the Stallions' squad to lead the club to the upper echelons of the table. Here are a few of the Pune City players to watch out for this season:
Edel (goalkeeper): The former Armenia international comes with a 100 percent success record in the competition and his presence between the posts could make the difference this year for the Orange and Purple brigade.
Edel kept a league-highest six clean sheets last season while at Chennaiyin FC, and will be expected to produce similar numbers at his new club.
Rahul Bheke (defender): Bheke impressed at Kerala Blasters last season when he was one of only a handful of the club’s players to emerge with any credit following their bottom place finish.
A right-back who can also play as a wing-back if the system demands, 25-year-old Bheke boasts a mean long throw that assisted goals for Kerala Blasters last season. He was among the league’s highest appearance-making Indians in 2015 and is the first “son-of-the-soil Maharashtra player” in Pune City’s ranks.
Jonatan Lucca (midfielder): The Brazilian played a pivotal role in FC Goa’s run to the final last season and will be counted on to produce similar levels of performance at Pune City this year. Lucca was one of the best passers at FC Goa in 2015, and also chipped in with three goals and an assist.
A cultured ball player, Lucca will offer dynamism in Pune City’s midfield with his distribution and ability to carry the ball into deeper areas in the opposition half. Still only 22, Pune City is another step in Lucca’s development as a footballer.
Arata Izumi (midfielder): With goals having been a problem for Pune City in their past two ISL campaigns, the Japanese-born Indian midfielder Arata Izumi will be relied upon to provide the Stallions a goal threat from midfield.
Izumi scored five goals for Atletico de Kolkata last season, and having reunited with manager Antonio Lopez Habas at Pune City this year, the prolific midfielder will be expected to continue his scoring touch with his new club.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh (midfielder): Reigning AIFF Player of the Year Lyngdoh will miss the opening few games of the new campaign but his importance to Pune City was reaffirmed when he was among a handful of players retained by the club from last season’s mess.
Lyngdoh is one of the mainstays of the Indian national team, and his experience and quality on the ball will be key to the Orange-Purples’ quest to make the top four this season. Like Lucca and Izumi, Lyngdoh can score goals from midfield and the trio could turn out to be the difference-makers for Pune City this season.