Blue Tigers travel to the land of Chinese Dragons for historic clash
Saturday will witness an exhilarating encounter between two Asian counterparts, as India travel to their neighbouring country China to engage in a historic international friendly with the People’s Republic of China. The match, which will take place at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in Suzhou City, marks the meeting of these two sides after a long break of 21 years. The last time we witnessed this Sino-Indian rivalry was way back in 1997 in the Nehru Cup held at Kochi, which India lost 1-2.
Ranked 76th in the FIFA charts, China enter the fixture as the favourites to win. Backing this is their superior record against India. In the 17 matches between the two sides, China have won 12 of them and drawn the remaining five. With Italy’s FIFA World Cup 2006 winning coach Marcello Lippi at the helm of affairs in the China dugout, the hosts will prove to be a solid force for their opponents to overcome.
Though experienced international players like Zhang Linpeng and Piao Cheng will not be in the squad due to injuries, the young trio of Deng Hanwen, Fan Xiaodong and Zhang Xiuwei have been drafted in by Lippi. Yu Dabao and Gao Lin will lead the frontline, while midfielder Wu Lei is expected to weave similar magic as he is showcasing in the Chinese Super League, currently. Chi Zhongguo and Wu Xi is likely to start in the middle of the park.
The centre-back position is expected to feature the settled duo of Feng Xiaoting and Yu Yang, with Li Xuepeng and Wang Tong taking full-back responsibilities. However, it would be interesting to see whether Lippi goes with the experienced Zeng Cheng as custodian or the in-form Yan Junling.
India need to leave behind their abysmal record against the hosts, if they want to achieve their first victory over China. Though placed 21 spots below China at 97, India have made leaps and bounds under the stewardship of Stephen Constantine over the past few years. However, this time it will be different because India face a much superior international side after a long time, as their preparation for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup continues.
Against a quality opposition and a seasoned coach, Constantine will field a top-class side. Sunil Chhetri is sure to lead the attack, while Jeje Lalpekhlua is expected to be given centre-forward duties. The impressive duo of Udanta Singh and Halicharan Narzary are likely to take charge at the wings, whereas the midfield may feature the ever-solid combination of Pronay Halder and Rowlin Borges.
Constantine will fall back on the Sandesh Jhingan-Anas Edathodika camaraderie to hold the fort at the back, with the towering Gurpreet Singh Sandhu under the sticks. Delhi Dynamos FC captain Pritam Kotal is expected to continue with his prowess at the right-back position, while 2018 SAFF Cup captain Subhasish Bose may feature on the left.
People’s Republic of China: Zeng Cheng (GK), Feng Xiaoting, Li Xuepeng, Yu Yang, Wang Tong, Wu Xi, Chi Zhongguo, Jin Jingdao, Gao Lin, Wu Lei, Yu Dabao
India: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Subhasish Bose, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Pronay Halder, Rowlin Borges, Udanta Singh, Halicharan Narzary, Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua
Watch the match live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV from 5 pm (IST).