PREVIEW: Under-pressure India look to clinch vital win against resilient Sri Lanka
The games come thick and fast in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship 2021, as just after a two-day interval, the action resumes, with India facing off against Sri Lanka on Thursday. There's no doubt India will be heading into the game as favourites again, but with the Bangladesh result fresh on their minds, Igor Štimac’s side would be vary of complacency and pre-game assumptions as they seek a crucial win to keep their quest for an 8th title alive.
The Blue Tigers commenced their SAFF Championship with a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh. Sunil Chhetri gave India the lead but that didn't stop Bangladesh from knocking on the door of the Indian defence, even after being reduced to 10 men. They eventually found a way through Yeasin Arafat.
While Sri Lanka are yet to open their account in the tournament, after two losses from their first two games, they have given a good account of themselves so far. They lost to Bangladesh 1-0 with 10 men before going down 2-3 against Nepal in a thrilling encounter. Although the results may not back it up, the Lankans have put up resilient displays and have looked threatening in attack, too.
India head coach Štimac lauded Sri Lanka’s performance in the tournament thus far. "We respect Sri Lanka as a team," he said. "I feel they could have two points from the two games they played. But they don’t have any, and that’s football.”
India got the better of Sri Lanka the last time they faced off at the 2018 SAFF Championship and historically, too, the Blue Tigers have been the better team, having won 9 of the 16 previous encounters against Sri Lanka. Currently, Sri Lanka are placed 205 in the FIFA rankings, 98 spots below India (107) but that doesn't mean Chhetri and Co can afford to take things lightly as a tricky test awaits them.
Stimac called for India to be patient and take their chances while attacking.
“We need to find a way to get past them, and we can do it by quick passing, with a lot of movement, moving into the final third. We will have our chances and we need to be clever and be patient against them.”
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh, Dheeraj Singh and Vishal Kaith.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Seriton Fernandes, Chinglensana Singh, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Mandar Rao Dessai.
Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Brandon Fernandes, Lalengmawia, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Jeakson Singh, Glan Martins, Suresh Singh, Liston Colaco, Yasir Mohammad.
Forwards: Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, Sunil Chhetri, Farukh Choudhary.
Kick-off time: 4:30 PM (IST)
Live streaming: Eurosport