We take a look at the top five key battles that could determine Monday’s match.

India will start their SAFF Championship campaign against Bangladesh. While Igor Stimac and his men are very excited to start their campaign in the Maldives, the Blue Tigers will have to be wary of their opponents. Oscar Bruzon’s Bangladesh have already won their opening clash against Sri Lanka and will be looking forward to this game.

India had the upper hand over the Bangla Tigers last time they met in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. Therefore, they will be looking for redemption. Also, new interim head coach Bruzon is looking to unlearn things from the past and implement his own ideas. So, Igor Stimac and his men should underestimate them at their peril.

In these matches, it mostly comes down to duels all over the pitch. The team that wins the most duels usually wins the game. We take a look at the top five key battles that could determine Monday’s match between Bangladesh and India.

5. Topu Barman Vs Sunil Chhetri

The veteran defender has been a vital cog in defence for the Bangladesh national team. He is a well-known name in South Asia and Barman relishes the big occasions. He was a standout performer for the Bangla Tigers in their World Cup Qualifying match against India. Although they lost, Barman’s performance was lauded by everyone. Topu Barman scored the solitary goal in their 1-0 win over Sri Lanka in the SAFF Championship curtain-raiser.

However, the Bangladesh will have the big task to contain India’s talisman Sunil Chhetri. The veteran has been a prolific goalscorer for the Blue Tigers for the last decade and he has shown no signs of slowing down. Chhetri likes to drop deep in midfield, get involved in the build-up and looks for spaces in the final third. Therefore, Barman needs to cut his supply from midfield, frustrating him by limiting his chances. A lot will depend on this duel.

4. Jamal Bhuyan Vs Brandon Fernandes

With a lot at stake, winning the midfield battle could definitely sway things in either team’s favour. Brandon Fernandes has been a real force in midfield for the Blue Tigers, especially in Igor Stimac’s era. But, he will be up against Bangladesh’s midfield maestro Jamal Bhuyan. He has been a stalwart for the Bangla Tigers over the years and after spending some time in India in the I-League with Mohammedan Sporting, Bhuyan has enough idea about Indian football. He will be looking to restrict Brandon’s movement in the middle, intercept his passes and cut his passing channels. If he manages to do that, then Bangladesh will have a huge advantage in this match.

Coupled with his defensive abilities, Jamal Bhuyan is also a brilliant passer. The experienced midfielder will look to initiate build-ups and will play a pivotal role during counter-attacks. He will have his task cut out against Brandon. The FC Goa man is exceptional with the ball at his feet. His ability to take on defenders, find teammates in tight situations and facilitate others, has made him the primary game-changer for the Blue Tigers.

3. Tariq Kazi Vs Manvir Singh

Alongside Topu Barman, Tariq Kazi has been the most consistent defender for Bangladesh lately. The Bashundhara Kings defender will be looking to contain Udanta Singh on the right channel. Originally a right-back, Kazi has been deployed at the heart of the defence alongside Barman by Oscar Bruzon. With Kazi in the mix, the Spaniard can field Yeasin Arafat on the right. The youngster likes to make runs forward and drill in some dangerous cross. Hence, to cover him, Kazi’s awareness, speed and defensive skills come in handy. Similarly, with Udanta making runs down the right flank, Kazi will be vested with the responsibility to cut down his crosses and track his movement.

Meanwhile, Udanta will want to make a mark in this SAFF Championship. He has blown hot and cold recently and a sparkling performance against Maziya S&RC in the AFC Cup would have raised his morale and now he would like to replicate that form with the national team.

2. Jewel Rana Vs Chinglensana Singh

Oscar Bruzon has handed opportunities to many of his former team’s players and one such star is Jewel Rana. The 25-year-old forward showed great understanding with the likes of Biplo Ahmed and Rakib Hossain. He can be a real danger for the Indian defence. Rana has pace and is known for his agility. He has the ability to skip past a few defenders at will. So, the Indian defence will have to be on their toes to contain the right-winger.

In the absence of star defender Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh will spearhead the Indian defence. The Hyderabad FC defender has established himself in the Indian defence with his exceptional passing skills and can initiate build-ups from the back. He has impressed everyone with his performances in recent times. However, against the Bangladesh forward, the India centre-back will have to be at his best. Stimac’s main aim will be to stop the build-ups from either flank and starve the Bangladeshi forwards.

1. Rakib Hossain Vs Seriton Fernandes

Oscar Bruzon has shown immense trust in young Bangladeshi talents and one such player is Rakib Hossain. The 22-year-old winger has great ball control and blistering speed. Hossain has made quite a name for himself with his tireless work ethic. He currently plies his trade for Dhaka Abahani in the Bangladesh Premier League and was one of their star players last season. Hossain netted eight goals along with five assists in 21 league matches. The youngster proved his worth against Sri Lanka as he was very composed on the ball and perfected a few low crosses from the left flank.

However, against India, he will be up against Seriton Fernandes. The Goan full-back is also known for his ability to overlap, drill in crosses and create chances. Therefore, it will be a fascinating contest between two attack-minded wide players. However, the FC Goa man is well adept in defence and will be trying to keep Hossain in check throughout the game.

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