India look to make presence felt against Bahrain

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Philem Dipak Singh

Doha, Jan 13 (PTI) After the spirited show againstformidable Australia, India would hope to make an impact inthe Asian Cup football tournament when they take on Bahrain intheir second group match here tomorrow.

Following a troubled build-up to the tournament which sawthe team suffer heavy defeats in international friendlies, the0-4 result against the world number 26 was comparativelybetter then what many had expected.

Bahrain are the least fancied among India''s opponents inGroup C, though they are ranked seventh in Asia and 93rd inFIFA charts, and missed out on the 2010 World Cup in play-off.

The match against Bahrain at the Al Saad Stadium tomorrowwould be a great opportunity for India to make their presencefelt in the continental showpiece event despite talismanicskipper Bhaichung Bhutia''s absence, who is recovering from acalf muscle injury.

Bhutia, who consulted the Australian team doctor on hisinjury a few days back, is expected to play a part in India''sthird group match against South Korea on January 18.

Coach Bob Houghton will make some changes from the teamthat played against Australia in their opening match, toprovide them rest for the match against South Korea.

"We can''t play three matches with the same set of boys,they will get tired as you are running a lot. So there will besome changes. It will be a tough match. Bahrain are a strongteam, having missed the World Cup in play-off, though theywere dominated by South Korea in their opening match,"Houghton said.

Head to head, Bahrain hold the edge winning three of thefour encounters. While the first meeting between the twosides, in 1982, ended in a stalemate, the West Asian nationthrashed India 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in June, 1993,their last meeting.

In between, Bahrain registered two more wins -- 3-0 in1986, and 2-1 in 1993. This will, however, be their firstmeeting in the Asian Cup.

Left-back Deepak Mondal, who struggled to stop thecrosses from the right by Brett Emerton in the first match, islikely to be replaced by Syed Rahim Nabi who operated on thewings against Australia.

Senior player Renedy Singh, who came in the second halfagainst Australia and who delivered a couple of good crosses,is expected to take Nabi''s left-wing position tomorrow.

Houghton is likely to continue with Sunil Chhetri andMohammed Rafi as strikers in the starting line-up, with thelanky Abhishek Yadav coming in later.

Gouramangi Singh, Anwar and Surrkumar Singh are expectedto start at the back, while Climax Lawrence and N P Pradeepwill continue to man the midfield. Steven Dias, who did nothave a very good game against Australia, is also expected tostart at the right. .

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