New Delhi : As anticipated, ace striker Sunil Chettri will partner skipper Bhaichung Bhutia in the crucial ONGC Nehru Cup match against Kyrgyzstan here Sunday.
India coach Bob Houghton said Saturday the Chettri-Bhutia pair will get their first start after a long time since Chettri was recovering from an ankle injury. Chettri, however, replaced Sushil Singh in the second half against Lebanon in the opening match at the Ambedkar Stadium.
Houghton admitted that the 0-1 loss against Lebanon has forced India to win all their remaining three matches.
“It is a daunting task for us. From here on we have to win all our remaining matches. We have to comeback well in the tournament to defend our title and hopefully we can do it tomorrow,” Houghton told reporters after the team’s practice session.
The Englishman hoped that the Bhutia-Chettri combination can work wonders for India as it did in the 2007 edition and the AFC Challenge Cup last year.
“Chettri will make his start tomorrow after a long time. He hasn’t played for 45 minutes in the past few months,” said Houghton.
Asked whether Chettri can play for 90 minutes, Houghton said: “Hopefully he would be able to spend longer time on the field. We can also use Abhishek Yadav or Syed Rahim Nabi.”
Houghton was also relieved as his key defender Anwar, who bruised his thigh against Lebanon, has recovered well due an extra rest day and will be available for the Kyrgyzstan match.
“Anwar’s availability is good news and Mahesh (Gawli) will also start,” he said.