High on confidence but low on performance, India will look to put behind the recent reverses when it takes on Chinese Taipei in the opening match of the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying tournament here on Saturday.
India lost to Palestine 2-4 in an international friendly at home on Feb. 6, barely four months after the 0-2 away verdict against Singapore.
The scorers against Palestine, Syed Rahim Nabi and Clifford Miranda, will be turning out as well, but it is again going to be skipper Sunil Chhetri who will have to shoulder the bulk of responsibility.
AFC Challenge has always been a good outing for Chhetri and despite the lack of playing time at Sporting Lisbon, the pint-sized striker will be expected to deliver the goods for Wim Koevermans’ side.
Rankings don’t separate the two teams much but India can take heart from the fact that it had thrashed its opponents 3-0 the last time it met, in the qualifiers of the same tournament last year.
India is ranked 167th in the world, with its opponents placed four places behind at 171.
The five group toppers along with two best second-placed teams from 20 nations will make it to the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives.
The winner of the tournament in Maldives will confirm its berth in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia, for which DPR Korea has already qualified.
Besides Chhetri, Koevermans will have Alwyn George, Jeje Lalpekhlua — the star of the 2010 edition — and Robin Singh as striking options.
The defence is likely to be manned by Denzil Franco, Gouramangi Singh, Shouvik Ghosh and Gurjinder Singh.
The midfield will comprise Nabi, Mehtab Hussain, Miranda with Lenny Rodrigues, in all likelihood, completing the set-up.