New Delhi:After a disappointing start, defending champions India are grappling with injuries as they look to find their mojo back by beating Kyrgyzstan in their crucial round-robin match of the Nehru Cup international football tournament here on Sunday.
India began their campaign with a 0-1 loss to Lebanon and Bob Houghton's boys need no less than a win in tomorrow's fixture at Ambedkar Stadium under floodlights.
Coach Houghton has admitted that his boys need to win all the remaining three round-robin matches if they are to make it to the final of the five-nation tournament.
But Houghton's headache was increased today with injuries to right back Surkumar Singh and striker Sushil Kumar Singh though central defender Anwar, who suffered a bruise on his right thigh against Lebanon, has recovered and has been declared fit to play tomorrow.
This was after left back NS Manju was ruled out of the tournament after fracturing his left toe in the match against Lebanon.
But another headache came in as Surkumar pulled a hamstring on his left leg and will be replaced by veteran Deepak Mondal at the right back position tomorrow.
To make matters worse, striker Sushil Singh has some stiffness on his legs and Abhishek Yadav will start in the playing XI.
As Sameer Naik is also not fully fit, experienced Mahesh Gawli, who used to play in central defence will replace Manju.
"Manju's injury is a bad luck and Samir (Naik) is also not fit. But the good thing is that rain delay has helped Anwar get fit for tomorrow's crucial match," Houghton said after team training session at a city college ground today.
"Our first match was good as far as performance goes but it was not easy to score on that surface. Now there is no room for error left we have to bounce back," Houghton said. "I saw Kyrgyzstan's game against Syria. They (Kyrgyzstan) are a good side and it will be an exciting game," he added.
Houghton sounded happy that his striker Sunil Chettri, who returned from a long injury lay-off and played 45 minutes against Lebanon, will be fit for tomorrow's match.
"Sunil is fit and will play tomorrow. But whether he will play the entire 90 minutes will be decided tomorrow."
The heavy rain which lashed the city yesterday and forced to postpone yesterday's match besides pushing all the fixtures drawn earlier by a day, did favour to India as central defender Anwar, who suffered a right thigh bruise against Lebanon, has regained fitness.
A draw against Kyrgyzstan, ranked four places down India at 160th in the FIFA chart, may still not send Bhaichung Bhutia-led side out of the five-team competition but the hosts' fate would then hang on results of the other teams.
The rub of the green might not have favoured India against Lebanon but now Houghton and his boys will have to shrug off whatever psychological after-effects of that match or else face criticism after having an expensive six-week foreign training tour of Dubai and Spain.
More than India's final berth at stake, tomorrow's match is also important from the point of view of crowd presence as only a win for the hosts can ensure a full crowd at the 20,000 capacity Ambedkar Stadium, which was filled up to half on the first day during India's tournament opener.
Kyrgyzstan would also be looking to pull up their socks as after their 0-2 loss to Syria as another defeat means they will be out of reckoning for a final berth.
Kyrgyzstan coach Ormombi Kov Anarbik was unperturbed about taking on the hosts.
"India are a good side. They play fast game from what I saw in the match against Lebanon. But we have nothing to lose and we will play our normal game," he said.
The young Kyrgyzstan team would not be lacking in effort but their problem against Syria was the gap between the strikers and midfield when attacking.
Many a times, their forwards found themselves alone inside the box.