India will hope to create history and reach the knockout stages of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup when they face Bahrain in Sharjah in their final group tie on Monday.

The third matchday in group stage of the AFC Asian Cup will begin on Monday, with the final Group A games being played at the same time. The second spot in the group will be on the line, when India and Bahrain meet at the Sharjah Stadium.

India are currently in the driver’s seat to progress from Group A as the second best outfit, as they sit 2nd with three points at the present moment. The Blue Tigers can even reach the knockout stages as winners of the group, provided UAE fail to win and they do. Chances of qualifying for the next round as one of the best third-placed teams also exist, but Stephen Constantine will hope to avoid that scenario.

Bahrain, on the other hand, have been quite unimpressive to say the least, having amassed just one point in their two games thus far. Their position means the Reds cannot progress to the Round of 16 as Group A winners, although Miroslav Soukoup’s men will be aiming to qualify as either the runners up or one of the best third-placed sides – they will need a win on Monday to do so.

Bahrain were the resounding victors the last time they locked horns with India, beating them 5-2 in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

India

Stephen Constantine will need to rally his troops following their 2-0 loss to UAE. (Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Stephen Constantine will need to rally his troops following their 2-0 loss to UAE. (Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Stephen Constantine is unlikely to make sweeping changes despite their disappointing performance against hosts UAE last time out. The India head coach has chosen to stick with most of his core group of players despite an odd poor showing.

As a result, two of the poorest performers last Thursday, Anas Edathodika and Pritam Kotal, should start in defence, although they will have to be at their best against a Bahrain side that has not had the results go their way, despite a couple of largely strong performances.

Anas has forged a strong partnership at the heart of the defence with Sandesh Jhingan, and the duo will hold the key against a dangerous Bahrain attack. Up ahead in midfield, it will be up to Pronay Halder and Anirudh Thapa to not resort to keep control in midfield, so that India do not have to resort to long ball tactics, which is not exactly their forte.

All the spotlight will invariably be on captain and talisman Sunil Chhetri. But, the team’s creative influence, Udanta Singh will be the X-Factor for the Blue Tigers, with his partnership with Chhetri being pivotal for India.

Jeje Lalpekhlua is in contention to be Chhetri’s strike partner, but Ashique Kuruniyan should get the nod once again, with Jeje being an impact substitute. The team should be completed by Halicharan Narzary, who will need to do better, after a sub-par showing forced a half-time substitution against UAE.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Gurpreet; Kotal, Jhingan, Anas, Bose; Udanta Singh, Halder, Thapa, Narzary; Chhetri, Kuruniyan

India

Bahrain

Miroslav Soukoup is likely to line his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with most of the players that featured in the disappointing 1-0 loss to Thailand likely to start against India as well. Sayed Shubbar Alawi will be the senior figure in the side, and the 33-year-old will likely be a busy man in goal.

Hamad Mahmood Al Shamsan and Ahmed Ali Juma should be the full-backs for the Reds, with the wide duo tasked with marauding up and down their respective flanks and put pressure from the wings. At the heart of the Bahrain defence, Sayed Redha Isa and Waleed Mohamed Al Hayam will have the unenviable task of keeping Sunil Chhetri quiet.

Up ahead in midfield, Soukoup will field two holding midfielders in Komail Al Aswad and Abdulwahab Safi with the intent of retaining control in the middle of the park. The duo are also potent on the ball, and will look to utilise possession effectively.

The onus though, will be on the attack to be more clinical with the ball, having disappointed on that account thus far. Sayed Saeed, Mohamed Marhoon and Sami Al-Husaini will be the creative forces for Bahrain, who will have Mohamed Al Romaihi leading the line for them.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Shubbar; Al Shamsan, Redha, Al Hayam, Juma; Al Aswad, Abdulwahab; Marhoon, Saeed, Al-Husaini; Al Romaihi

Bahrain

Key Stats

  • India are yet to beat Bahrain. In five previous meetings, the Reds have won on four occasions, with the other game ending in a draw.
  • The two sides have met previously in the AFC Asian Cup on one occasion, with Bahrain handing a 5-2 defeat to India.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (85) is the only active player with more goals in international football than Sunil Chhetri (67).

Player to Watch

Sunil Chhetri

India's fortunes hinge largely on the output of Sunil Chhetri. (Photo by Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

India’s fortunes hinge largely on the output of Sunil Chhetri. (Photo by Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

Whenever India are in action in international football, Sunil Chhetri is invariably the player who has all the eyeballs on him. Monday is unlikely to be any different, with the captain’s output holding the key for the Blue Tigers.

Chhetri’s shot conversion was dreadful against UAE, having been handed two clear-cut chances to find the back of the net. On Monday, however, the experienced striker can ill afford any profligacy. And, if he manages to produce his best, India could well be on course for a history-making win.

Prediction

India 2-1 Bahrain

India have played out of their skins thus far at the AFC Asian Cup, while Bahrain have been left frustrated in their two games. The Reds ought to have won each of their first two matches, only for the front-men to be wasteful.

India, on the other hand, could have beaten UAE on another day, and are riding a wave of confidence, despite their loss against the hosts. The Hard Tackle expects the Blue Tigers to continue their confident run, with Sunil Chhetri making amends to his misgivings against UAE – we are going for a 2-1 win for Stephen Constantine’s men.