NEW DELHI: Captain Bhaichung Bhutia and his regular strike partner Sunil Chhetri will be rested to preserve them for the all-important clash when India play Syria in their last round-robin fixture of the Nehru Cup international football tournament on Saturday.
Abhishek Yadav and Sushil Kumar Singh will replace Bhutia and Chhetri upfront as coach Bob Houghton wants to give the reserve players a chance since the home team has already made it to the final of the five-nation tournament.
Senior player Renedy, who will also start at the left wing in place of Anthony Pereira will lead the side. The right wing will be manned by East Bengal captain Syed Rahim Nabi.
Climax Lawrence and Mehrajuddin Wadoo will start at the midfield and NP Pradeep will replace the former in the second session.
There will be no change in the two central defenders’ position as Gouramangi Singh and Anwar will start with Deepak Mondal and Mahesh Gawli at the right and left back positions respectively.
After the first half, Gawli will make way for Surkumar Singh who will play as right back while Deepak will be shifted to left, Houghton said after the team’s training session at a city college ground.
Houghton said despite India having qualified for the final, his boys will play their best and “test” the Syrians.
“The players who will start will want to prove that they are also in good nick and they have also contributed for the team. Mehrajuddin (wadoo), (Syed Rahim) Nabi, Renedy they all would want to prove themselves so we will be playing for a win,” the Englishman said.
“It will be an interesting match. I am looking forward how Syrians are going to be tested by my boys. You don’t get a team of their class to test your strength quite often.”
Houghton said the Syrians were a better side than the last time when India beat them 1-0 in the final.
“I think they are a lot better this time. I am impressed by their performance so far. Their defenders Ali Dyab and Belal Abdul Diam and midfielder Feras Ismail,” he said.
Houghton said he came to know of India being through to the final only this morning after yesterday’s 1-0 win by Syria over Lebanon and said the head-to-head rule makes sense.
Under this rule, if two teams are level on points, the side which wins over the other in the league stage will advance to the next stage without looking into the goal difference.
So, India booked a place in the final after Syria beat Lebanon. Another contender Sri Lanka had no chance to make it to the summit clash as they had been beaten by the home team in the round-robin fixture.
“I think this rule is sensible. I think this rule is applied in the last World Cup qualifier and Asian Cup qualifier. It is good that you are judge internally (by who wins in the league stage),” he said.