The Blue Tigers will be aiming to extend their lead in Group A in their fixture against the hosts.

After a gap of eight years, a team qualifies for the continental showpiece. Treated as pushovers, it wins 4-1 in its first game against a formidable opponent. The Indian national team could not have asked for a better start to the AFC Asian Cup 2019, defeating Thailand 1-4, inspired by the evergreen Sunil Chhetri at the top of the attack. The #11 was ably helped by some astute management by his manager Stephen Constantine and young, fast Indian players who displayed some brilliant attacking football in the second half.

Watch: Thailand 1-4 India, Goals and Highlights

Well begun is half the job done and the Blue Tigers move on to more difficult pastures hereon. Against the UAE, the Gurpreet Singh Sandhu-led team will face a different challenge. The hosts started their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Bahrain in a well-competed encounter. India will play the UAE on Thursday at the ZSC Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Watch: UAE 1-1 Bahrain, Goals and Highlights

India will look to continue their midfield and defensive resoluteness coupled with the fluid attack that took everyone, even the Indian faithful, by surprise. The UAE, meanwhile, have better runners in behind defenders and will test the Indian vanguard’s full depth. Pronay Halder will again have his task cut out, marshalling the wall just in front of Anas Edathodika and Sandesh Jhingan.

About The Teams

India

The Blue Tigers are surging with confidence after a heroic display against Thailand

The Indian team, under Englishman Constantine, have gone from strength to strength and after their recent outing against Thailand, they have garnered some much-needed respect amongst their competitors. Such a dominant display, is bound to have a psychological effect on the UAE’s preparations.

UAE

The Emirati nation will hoping for a better result than the one in their previous fixture

The UAE, inarguably a better side than Thailand, stand at 79 in the FIFA rankings and under Alberto Zaccheroni, have played a defensively resolute game time and again. The Whites know how to eke out a result and have played West Asian nations regularly. In November last year, they held South American side Bolivia to a goalless draw, highlighting their strong preparations for the Asian Cup. The team defeated and were defeated 2-0 by Yemen and Kuwait respectively, prior to the tournament.  

Formation

India

Sunil Chhetri is expected to be his side’s lone frontman

Do they really need to change anything? It is unlikely, with no player even going into the warning book. It was a picture-perfect display from the Indians, with Ashique Kuruniyan grabbing a lot of plaudits in the hole behind Chhetri. “Mizo Sniper” Jeje Lalpekhlua also got on the scoresheet after coming on late into the game, ending a 10-month drought in front of goal. There were few complaints really and the side are set to continue their good work.

A lot has been written and talked about Edathodika’s lack of game-time, but the Kerala Blasters’ centre-back slotted into the role alongside club ally Sandesh Jhingan, perfectly. With Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose also doing their jobs with robustness in the full-back positions, India had little to worry.

Halder, in midfield, was well helped by the ever-so-willing Anirudh Thapa, who looked tireless in his traditional box-to-box role, something that has gone out of the game with the evolution of defensive and attacking midfielders. Thapa’s delightful chip for his first Asian Cup goal spoke volumes of his confidence and bodes well for the side.

Udanta Singh down the right and Holicharan Narzary on the left grew into the game in the second 45, creating some key chances. Narzary assisted Lalpekhlua’s goal, killing any Thai hopes in the dying moments. Thus, the Indian formation of 4-2-3-1 looks set to continue.

Probable Lineups

India

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK) ©, Kotal, Jhingan, Edathodika, Bose, Thapa, Halder, Udanta, Kuruniyan, Narzary, Chhetri.

UAE

Eisa, Al Saadi, Salmeen, Saleh, Ghanim, Al Hammadi, Bandar, Khaflan, Abdulrahman, Khamis, Mabkhout.

Coach’s Corner

Stephen Constantine (India)

The Indian head coach will be aiming to confirm qualification for the knockout stages

After their victory against Thailand, India have a decent chance to qualify for the knockout stages, which would easily exceed all expectations. The Englishman stated, “We still have two games left and we still need another two points to qualify from the group stages. After we have qualified, we can get a little bit excited, but our primary job is still to qualify out of the group stages.”

He quipped, “We try to win every match that we play in. We don’t go into a match expecting to win 4-1 or 5-1. However, we are trying not to get carried away with the emotion.”

Constantine further added, “We gave a good testament of ourselves against Thailand and we are a young side that is capable of a lot many things.”

Alberto Zaccheroni (UAE)

The Italian gaffer will be using a different approach against India

The UAE were surprisingly held to a draw by Bahrain. Even after their defeat in the previous fixture, the hosts are still expected to qualify for the knockout stages and will be gunning for glory against the early table-toppers. Their gaffer Zaccheroni has already mentioned that his team will use a different approach against the Blue Tigers.

He said, “We need to improve and hopefully produce a better performance.”

Players’ Corner

Sunil Chhetri (India)

The Bengaluru FC man scored a brace against Thailand

Currently, the player with the second most international goals amongst active players, India’s talisman Chhetri will be aiming for a positive result against the hosts. He said, “I’m not thinking about all the records we have made with this result, I am just focusing on the next match against the UAE, which will be a very tough game. I don’t take the (personal) record too seriously, there’s no comparison between me and (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo. But, of course, I’m very honoured and I don’t take it for granted every time I score for my country. Every time I get an opportunity, I do my best to score for my country.”

The Bengaluru man scored a brace against the War Elephants, including the game-changing second goal after the interval.

He further added, “We now want to recover well, make sure no-one is injured and then give a good account of ourselves in the game against the UAE. We’re looking forward to it. Although, we know it will be a tough game as the UAE, Thailand and Bahrain are all top sides who are very technical with the ball.”

Ahmed Khalil (UAE)

 The 27-year-old will be aiming to add to his goal tally

The Emirati forward scored for his side, as they were held to a stalemate by Bahrain in their opening group clash. His equalizer came towards the end of the match, with two minutes of regulation time still left.

Ahead his side’s upcoming encounter against Group A leaders India he said, “You have to give your maximum. You have to fight and work more and this is how we came back and we can do it for the next game. We go for three points and hopefully we’ll come back.”

What To Expect

A defensive display from both sides, with the UAE holding onto bulks of possession. Wingers from both sides will look to enjoy a lot of the ball and the full-backs will have their tasks cut out to prevent such inroads. India, meanwhile, will look to soak up pressure, with the UAE banking on slow, smart build-ups with players running in behind.

Broadcast

The game will be telecast in six languages in India on Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 HD Hindi, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Kannada, along with Hotstar from 9:30 PM on Thursday evening.