Indian men’s senior national team are up against Lebanon in their final group stage game of the Hero Intercontinental Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha on Thursday.

The Blue Tigers had a dominant start to the tournament, winning their first two games – 2-0 against Mongolia followed by a 1-0 victory over Vanuatu. 

India face a tricky test against the higher ranked Lebanon, who are ranked two places above them at 99 in the latest FIFA rankings. Having played each other seven times in the past, Lebanon have got the better of India in the fixture, coming out on top four times and losing just once. Head coach Igor Stimac, however, feels he has enough players at his disposal to put up a strong side against the Middle Eastern opponent.

“We don't know which (playing) XI will be coming out for Lebanon, but whoever will be in it, they will be a good side, a quality side. A side that can play physical game, technical game, who can match in any manner the Indian team. We are ready, we have enough players with different styles of game, we are going to choose a proper XI on Thursday,” Stimac stated in an interaction with the AIFF.

Squad depth was a distinguished attribute in the Blue Tigers lineup in their 1-0 over Vanuatu as Stimac made nine changes to the team that won 2-0 against Mongolia. Skipper Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan – who recently touched 50 appearances for the side – remained the only two unchanged players from the team. The Croatian provided updates on how he plans to use his players given the issues faced by players over the two matches.

“I cannot say that we know everything about them (the players) because everytime each coach has certain problems with injuries to their players, with fatigue, with soreness. First and mostly, we are trying to save these players because we cannot play with their destinies and put them at risk. So, we have nine certain players who will start the game, and I’m looking for two more to show up at the training session and show me that they understand what I’m expecting,” he added.

This fixture is of great significance for the Cedars as a draw or a win would help them qualify for the title clash in the final against India. Whereas, if they lose to India, and Mongolia win big enough to leapfrog them on goal difference then the final can be played between India and Mongolia.

Stimac, however, remained unfazed regarding their opponent in the final. Laying emphasis on his team’s style of play, the 55-year-old asserted that his men are poised to be themselves while playing on the pitch.

“Whoever comes there, we’re going to be there and do our best. So, if we need to play level five, we’ll play it five times, if it’s seven then it’ll be seven times. We’ll be happy to go out, play, and enjoy our football without having the fear of playing against anyone,” he concluded.