India face Bahrain in their third and final Group A fixture at the AFC Asian Cup 2019 as they look to secure passage to the knockout stage for the first time.
Stephen Constantine's team have impressed at the tournament but will be ruing their poor finishing against UAE as they now need a win against Bahrain to assure themselves of qualification or a draw to stay in the hunt for a round of 16 berth.
Here are three things to look out for as the Blue Tigers take on Bahrain at the Al-Sharjah Stadium in Sharjah at 9.30 PM IST:
3. India's Profligacy in Attack
India have placed a lot of trust in their finishing at the Asian Cup and so far, that has determined their fortunes.
Their clinical finishing helped them defeat Thailand 4-1 but the game against UAE saw them revert to type as they were profligate in front of goal, wasting five good chances that eventually saw them lose 2-0.
The Blue Tigers need talisman Sunil Chhetri to be at his clinical best against Bahrain if they are to make a fist of it and secure a positive result.
He has been supported very well by Ashique Kuruniyan and Udanta Singh; the two of them need to ensure they take whatever chances come their way as well.
2. Bahrain Will Go for the Win
Bahrain came into the tournament on the back of three consecutive wins in their last three specially arranged friendlies in December over Tajikistan, North Korea and Lebanon, giving them much-needed confidence.
After undergoing a resurgence under coach Miroslav Soukup, they reached the semi-finals of the 2018 Gulf Cup, making it to that stage after a decade. They impressed in their draw with UAE as they conceded a penalty to draw 1-1 despite dominating the game. Their 1-0 loss to Thailand saw them dominate the ball but they could not create a lot of chances.
The key men for The Red will be Ali Madan, a pacy attacking midfielder who has a good left foot and takes a mean free-kick and Mohamed Al Romaihi, who has scored their only goal so far, and is good in the air. Their tendency is to attack from the flanks and cross the ball.
1. India's Poor Record Against Bahrain
Bahrain have a great record against India, having won four matches and drawn only. They scored 13 goals in those five matches, conceding only three.
The Blue Tigers' worst defeat to The Red came in the 2011 Asian Cup as they were thrashed 5-2. Sunil Chhetri and Gouramangi Singh got on the scoresheet but the Indians were thoroughly outplayed on the night.
Constantine's objective would be to go for the win and play with the same positive attitude that the team have shown so far at the tournament. A win will not only secure qualification to the knockout stage but also avenge their previous losses.
Three things to look forward to as India face Bahrain at the AFC Asian Cup 2019