A win at home to the Southeast Asians will seal the Blue Tigers’ qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the UAE.
The Indian national team is set to play its fourth AFC Asian Cup Qualifier on 11th October at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. The Blue Tigers have been in smooth touch recently, having gone on an unbeaten run of 10 games, winning 9 of them.
India have played three AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers so far, winning all of them. The Stephen Constantine-managed team defeated Myanmar 1-0 away on 28th March and with the same margin against the Kyrgyz Republic on 13th June at home. Talisman and captain Sunil Chhetri scored both vital goals for the Men in Blue and was assisted by Udanta Singh and Jeje Lalpekhlua on respective occasions.
In the last fixture against Macau, India trounced the hosts 0-2 courtesy two talismanic strikes from super-sub Balwant Singh in the 57th minute and 83rd minute at the Estadio Campo Desportive, also known as the Macau Olympic Complex.
The hosts are now ranked 107 in the FIFA rankings dropping 14 places while the visitors are positioned 183 in the rankings. India should not be complacent at all with their current form and this is what Constantine will pour into the ears of his boys. A win, here again, will not only allow India to retain their pole position at the top but also regain their spot in the FIFA rankings.
India Playing XI
In one of the most shocking developments in recent times, Constantine’s long-time favourite Robin Singh and his heir-apparent for several fans, Manvir Singh, failed to make the cut. This easily portrays that ball-playing strikers Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh will be expected to lead the side upfront at home against Macau.
Sunil Chhetri, expectedly, will lead the side out at his home club stadium (Chhetri plies his trade for Bengaluru FC) and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, too, will continue his dominance under the bar. The rest of the team is set to choose itself, and U-23 players in the likes of Sarthak Golui, Salam Ranjan Singh and Lalruatthara would hope to get into the fray in the last 15-20 minutes.
In the centre of the midfield, Md. Rafique will be hoping to make it to the first XI sooner than later, but Constantine will be expected to start with Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Rowlin Borges in the heart of the midfield. On the wings, Indian ‘flash’ Udanta Singh is set to make the right wing his own, and the defensive hard work put in by Holicharan Narzary will help him to start at the left. Captain and talisman Chhetri would be expected to start in the hole, just behind a single striker.
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Up ahead, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh are both expected to play a role. Any of these or CK Vineeth could be asked to start, with another player coming off the bench in the second half. Khel Now understands that one of the pair of Balwant and Jeje will be given the nod ahead of Vineeth, who will be expected to make an impact coming on when the opposing defence gets tired, probably on the right wing.
In the away fixture, India preferred to sit back and defend, with both Lyngdoh and Borges sitting pretty deep on the pitch and the creative workload falling on the pair Chhetri and Udanta. Balwant, if he starts, will be expected to play the first line of defence and press opposition defenders to create that little extra space for his attacking teammate Jeje.
The team is set to start with a 4-2-3-1 system, which will change to 4-1-4-1 whenever India attacks. Kotal and Das will not be expected to make too many attacking runs, as it might lead to opening up spaces behind wings. With Udanta and Chhetri around, a lot of creativity can be expected. Lyngdoh and Borges can both be expected to interchange the role of screening in front of the defence throughout the game whenever India pushes the opposition.
India’s Predicted XI against Macau
Up top, Lalpekhlua and Balwant, whoever starts, will be expected to add the power and presence in the box. If Balwant is dropped to the bench, Lalpekhlua will be expected to play off Chhetri and provide the link-up play option to the likes of Udanta, Lyngdoh and Borges. Chhetri will also be expected to narrow down the width and play in the hole, making him even more dangerous. The captain and his heir apparent, Udanta, are no pushovers defensively and Das and Kotal will definitely have a lot to smile about.
Alternatively, India can play a 4-3-3 in the midfield, with Rowlin Borges as the screen in front of the defence and Lyngdoh and Rafique taking the roles of left central midfielder and right central midfielder respectively. This will add a lot of depth in the middle and will allow more possession to the Blue Tigers. Chhetri and Udanta will then be expected to start on the wings, with Balwant/Lalpekhlua up top.
STEPHEN CONSTANTINE: “We have to move the ball around quicker and we can’t give them time to set themselves up.”
EUGENESON LYNGDOH: “Three points is what we are looking forward to. But I reiterate, we are not the favourites.”
SUNIL CHHETRI: “I don’t do anything special, trust me. Playing for my country is the biggest motivation for me and it keeps driving me always. I won’t let anyone take my place just for the sake of it. I will keep working hard day in and day out and fight for my place in the team.”
CHAN HIU MING (MACAU COACH): “India are the better team undoubtedly. We’re trying to close the gaps. They have quite a few great players, like 11 (Sunil Chhetri) and others.”
Full Press Conference –> HERE!
The game will be Live on the Star Sports Network from 7:30 pm on Tuesday evening. You can also catch live streaming of the match on the Hotstar app or you can follow the fastest live commentary on Khel Now.