The Gorkhalis will face the Blue Tigers for the first time in two years on Thursday.

After a two-month-long training camp, Nepal will face its first challenge when they host India at Dasharath Stadium on Thursday. A lot has changed in both teams ever since their last friendly fixture in Mumbai and these two friendlies will serve to be crucial for both. Nepal’s head coach Abdullah Almutairi and captain Kiran Limbu spoke to the media earlier today regarding the two friendlies.

On training camps

When asked about the preparations so far, Almutairi hinted at satisfaction with the training camp. “We’ve prepared for two months prior to this match,” he said. “We had our training camps in Kathmandu and Pokhara and the preparations have been very good. We’ve studied them [India] well and I think we’re ready for the game.” 

Making his home debut against India

Tomorrow’s match against India will be Abdullah Almutairi’s first home game as the Nepal head coach. When asked about the feeling, Almutairi expressed his happiness on finally getting to play against India. “I’m very happy to play in the Dasharath Stadium. It’s a pleasure for me to have my first home game against India. But, it won’t be as fun without the home fans inside the stadium,” he said.

Thoughts on India-Nepal friendlies

Addressing questions about Nepal’s realistic chances against India, Abdullah Almutairi gave out optimistic comments. Emphasizing the squad’s development, he highlighted the friendlies’ importance. “India are a very strong team. Sure, they’re the favourites – everybody is expecting them to win these matches.

“But, I don’t think so. We want to show everyone what we’re capable of and why we are called the Gorkhalis. We won’t play for a draw, we want to win both the matches,” he said.

The SAFF Championship preparations

The 39-year-old also spoke about the SAFF Championship and the role these friendlies will play in preparing for the tournament. “We’re going to attack and it will not be easy for both the teams. But, wins against India won’t guarantee the SAFF Championship. These are two separate challenges and we want to take them one at a time,” said Almutairi. “Players’ performances will be the most important thing for me tomorrow. We’ve always been in the bottom half among the SAFF sides. My job is to make the people proud of their national team,” he asserted.

Almutairi also revealed about Nepal’s preparation camp in Doha. The Gorkhalis will begin training for the SAFF Championship immediately after the friendlies and will fly to Qatar on the 10th of September.

About the change in Nepali side

Abdullah Almutairi hinted at massive changes in the Nepali side that will face India tomorrow. The unavailability of Rohit Chand and his tendency to give minutes to young players are understood to be the main reasons behind his claim. “We’ve changed 11-12 players ever since my tenure started. Tomorrow, we’ll have surprises. We’ll have new players playing for the team. The main change we are aiming for is bringing a change in mentality,” he said.

On playing against India

Kiran Limbu will be wearing the armband for Nepal tomorrow. The Roundglass Punjab custodian has faced India on a handful occasions after being a regular for the Nepali senior side in 2008. “It will be a tough contest. All the matches that I’ve played against India have not been easy at all. Definitely, We have the home advantage. But India are a tough side,” the 31-year-old added.

On Almutairi’s approach

The Nepal national team moved on from Bal Gopal Maharjan following the Three Nations Cup win in March. Kuwaiti national Abdullah Almutairi took the reigns after the Nepal Super League that took place in April. When asked about his experience under the new coach, the shot-stopper shared optimistic comments.

“We’ve trained under Abdullah for 5-6 months now. We’re confident in our shape and stronger as a team,” he said. “Compared to the previous coaches that I’ve worked with, he’s been like a father to us. He treats us well and he’s instilled a strong mentality in the team.” 

Becoming Nepal’s most-capped player

Limbu is just two caps short of becoming the most-capped player in Nepal’s history. Starts against India in both friendlies will be enough to get him to that feat. From being taken off on his national team debut to making it this far, Limbu opened up in the conference. “I was 18 when I had to be withdrawn from my debut match. I was unsure whether I was going to continue. The 13 years have not been easy. I’m happy, but I have a long way to go. Records will come and go. I’m happy that I get to represent Nepal at the highest level,” he concluded.

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