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In-form India take on Nepal in football friendly

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 Jun 2017 12:00 AM GMT

Mumbai, June 5 : Getting valuable game-time together ahead of the all-important AFC Asian Cup qualifying game against Kyrgyzstan on June 13 would be on India's minds when they take on Nepal in an intertiol friendly at the Mumbai Football Are here on Tuesday.

India have not played together for 11 weeks but form is firmly with Stephen Constantine's men who have registered victories in 11 of their last 13 outings.

Added to this, India have maintained their 20-year-high FIFA ranking of 100 with Mohun Bagan striker Jeje Lalpekhlua and the ever-dependable skipper Sunil Chhetri chipping in with important goals.

"I hope to get a win against Nepal and I hope to see players who vie for the starting XI put up a good show so I can assess them for the game against Kyrgyz Republic which is a very important match for us," Constantine said prior to the match.

"The FIFA Rankings are just one aspect of the game. It is not as if we would now relax, we would not be pushing to break the 100 barrier. However our focus is completely now on Nepal and we will take one game at a time," he added.

Norwegian club Stabaek FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has also been a strong influence. Gurpreet will lead India in the absence of Chhetri who will be rested. Vineeth has been released from the Camp on the day due to a sore ankle.

"Sunil is a very good player and has been for a long time. I hope he has many more years to give for India. I would like Chhetri to be leading the team in the AFC Asian Cup in 2019, if we qualify. The day he hangs his boots, it will be huge loss for Indian football," Constantine said on Chhetri.

India last played an intertiol -- against Myanmar -- on March 28, a match remembered for Chhetri's brilliant late winner. India will miss the services of Bengaluru FC winger Udanta Singh, who is also injured.

As for Nepal, who are 69 places below India in the rankings, the lowly outfit will depend on 19-year-old Bimal Gharti Magar and wayug Shrestha to deliver the goods. Nepal are a young side under new Japanese coach Koji Gyotoku.

The two sides last locked horns in the SAFF Championship in Trivandrum in December 2015 when goals from Rowllin Borges, Chhetri and a brace from Lallianzuala Chhangte helped India script a 4-1 win.

"Despite India's rank in the FIFA ladder, we (Nepal) will play for a win and their (India's) ranking does not intimidate us," Nepal coach Gyotoku said.

"In fact we are looking to give it our best on the pitch and stun the hosts. At the same time, we respect our opponents and give them due credit for their rise (in the FIFA Rankings), but we will play for nothing less than a win," he added.

India are playing Nepal as a replacement for Lebanon, who pulled out of a friendly at the last moment citing visa issues. IANS

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