Punjab FC head coach Staikos Vergetis revealed that he is not going to make many changes when they face Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.

With a commendable recent run of form, Punjab FC are aiming to solidify their position in the standings. Out of their four victories this season, three have been secured in the last six matches, including a recent triumph against Hyderabad FC. Despite their positive streak, the challenge against Mumbai City FC, currently in the second position, promises to be demanding.

Vergetis, speaking ahead of the game, mentioned that his team has thoroughly analysed Mumbai City FC, emphasising the need to devise effective solutions for the challenges posed by their opponents in order to secure victory in the upcoming match.

“We must find solutions to the problems we have analysed, that the opponents can create for us. We are not going to change many things (against Mumbai City FC) because we will lose our cohesion as a team and our structure.. That’s why we have to find solutions (about) how we are going to face the key points of the opponents without changing many things,” he said in the pre-match press conference. 

Mumbai City FC and Punjab FC have faced each other twice this season, with one encounter in the league and another in the Kalinga Super Cup. In the earlier league fixture, Punjab FC narrowly lost to Mumbai City FC at the Mumbai Football Arena. In January, the two teams met again in the Kalinga Super Cup, where Mumbai City FC emerged victorious in a thrilling five-goal contest, securing a 3-2 win.

Anticipating another demanding match against the Islanders this Saturday, Vergetis expressed his expectation of a challenging encounter as his team prepares to take on Mumbai City FC once again.

“It’s a team that plays very good, modern football,” he stated.

“They try to create superiorities in some spaces of the field and take advantage of this superiority to reach quickly in the attacking third. We will have very difficult work against them,” he added.

Presently, Punjab FC finds themselves just three points away from securing a spot in the top six, showcasing an impressive performance trajectory since the beginning of the year. With three victories in their last four matches, their only setback occurred in a match against Jamshedpur FC. Vergetis candidly acknowledged the noticeable improvement in his team's performances, especially when compared to the previous year. He expressed confidence in the continuous development of his players, asserting that it was only a matter of time before they adapted to the demanding standards of the league.

“Our team has a better present, better performance than before since the start of 2024. This is logical, this is normal because our players took appearances, participation in the ISL in the first round (to adapt). It was very useful to help them understand the division, how the games are played at this level. Now they are more than ready to face the opponent, which is why we have better performances,” he explained.

“I speak about the performance and not about results because against Jamshedpur FC, we had an excellent performance, especially in the first half. We played our best game and we lost 0-4. We won against Hyderabad FC without having a good performance. Which is why I speak about the performances. The team shows that progressively and it’s getting better and better. This is what interests us as coaches,” he added. 

Doesn’t matter if we’re winning or losing: Ravi Kumar 

Goalkeeper Ravi Kumar accompanied Vergetis in the pre-match press conference. Having made appearances in 10 out of their 16 league games, he has been in competition with Kiran Limbu for the goalkeeping position. Kumar has notably started in their last five matches, playing a pivotal role in Punjab FC's recent success, contributing significantly to three victories in 2024.

Kumar touched upon the atmosphere within the dressing room, emphasising the unity within the group.

“It doesn't matter if we’re winning or losing every match. The motivation remains the same and we keep supporting each other (regardless of the result). It’s a positive atmosphere in our dressing room,” he said in the pre-match press conference. 

At the commencement of the season, Kumar found himself not as the primary goalkeeper for Punjab FC, with Nepal's Kiran Limbu holding the first-choice position. Despite not being a regular starter in the initial half of the season, Kumar has seamlessly taken on the responsibility as the main goalkeeper for the team.

In discussing his journey, Kumar shared insights into the competition among the goalkeepers within the group and how it has played a crucial role in his preparation.

“There is good competition within our goalkeeping contingent including Kiran (Limbu), Jaskaran(vir Singh), Ayush (Deshwal) and myself. We push each other. And it helps you get ready whenever you are presented with a chance. So it has not been that difficult for me (even though I've not started every game). If you’re prepared, ready and are pushing each other, whenever someone is selected in the playing eleven by the coach, you are ready to give your 100 percent,” he said.