The Blue Tigers are in action on March 23.

After another rip-roaring domestic league campaign, the players are set to unite for the Indian national team, keeping aside their club rivalries. In order to prepare for the AFC Asian Cup final round qualifiers, India will play against hosts Bahrain on March 23. 

The West Asians broke the hearts of billions of Indians at the AFC Asian Cup 2019 with a last-minute winner. Since then, the Indian team has seen ample changes, with young players stepping up in these years. The Blue Tigers look well-equipped to avenge the heartbreak and make an optimistic start this year. 

To be successful in their plans, India need to win some small battles in the game against Bahrain. That also includes the tactical one between the coaches. So, before the ball gets rolling, here are the three key battles that could decide the match.

3. Sandesh Jhingan Vs Mohamed Al-Romaihi

Sandesh Jhingan Injury
Jhingan marks his return to the national team for the first time in three years (Courtesy: AIFF Media)

Hélio Sousa has got quite a number of options upfront and it will be a tough decision to select the man in the box. The East Riffa forward Al-Romaihi is expected to get an edge over fellow stalwarts Yusuf Helal and versatile Al-Humaidan. The 31-year-old striker scored the winner against Saudi Arabia, which granted Bahrain the Gulf Cup title in 2019. 

With an exquisite ‘number 10’ Kamil Al-Aswad behind him, the centre-forward will ask tough questions to the Indian defence. Therefore, goalscoring is not a major concern for the hosts if the duo clicks well.

The eyes will be on resilient Sandesh Jhingan to hold the defence line and nullify the threats from Al-Romaihi. Despite playing only seven games this season (ISL), Jhingan looked rock-solid with three successful tackles and seven clearances every two games. The 28-year-old centre-back has already displayed his brilliance against Qatar and Oman in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. 

2. Liston Colaco Vs Sayed Redha Isa

Sayed Redha Isa
Redha is among the players in the Bahrain camp to keep an eye on (Courtesy: Instagram/@radawy16)

In all likelihood, Liston Colaco will be deployed on the left flank, allowing Manvir Singh to play upfront. With eight goals and three assists, Colaco had been the stand-out Indian player in the domestic league. The winger has impressed everyone with his belligerence and is expected to be the “next big thing” in Indian football.

Liston averaged 1.2 key passes from the wide areas. Thus, giving the youngster license to roam around freely will benefit the Blue Tigers as he can play off Singh and get into pockets of space in the final third.

The Bahrain side simply cannot allow the high-flying winger any space in the final third. They will hope their trusted right-back Sayed Redha Isa will stop the youngster in his stride. The Al-Riffa defender possesses tremendous ability to break down attacks and is least prone to mistakes. However, keeping the pacey winger quiet throughout the match will most probably be one of his most tedious tasks.

1. Pronay Halder Vs Kamil Hasan Al-Aswad

Pronay Halder AFC Asian Cup 2019 India Bahrain
Halder will once again sit infront of the defence and break play (Courtesy: AFC Media)

Pronay Halder is known for slowing down the pace and tempo of the game. Owing to his performances and work-rate with Jamshedpur FC the midfielder was brought into the squad again. The player has got a chance to redeem himself after the penalty he committed at the 2019 Asian Cup.

With three tackles and four interceptions in every two matches, the 30-year midfielder plays a vital role in disintegrating attacks from the middle. However, Pronay also faces a daunting task while playing against Bahrain. He will be tasked to keep a check on their playmaking forward Kamil Hasan. 

The number 10 possesses excellent knowledge of when to carve out defence-splitting passes or crosses and score goals. The position shifting and movements from the player makes him difficult to keep under control. Halder needs to be at his both strategic and physical best to stop the attacker from making any direct impact. 

If India are to get point(s) from the game, they will need to keep Bahrain’s Al-Aswad quiet and Pronay Halder could be crucial to ensuring that happens.

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