Hyderabad:Ahead of India's crucial match against defending champions Tajikistan in the AFC Challenge Cup, head coach Bob Houghton on Thursday said a couple of key players would be rested in view of the tight schedule with NP Pradeep and injured Deepak Mondal certain to miss out action on Friday.
Talking to reporters after a practice session at the Goshamahal Stadium here, Houghton said Pradeep and defender Deepak Mondal, who limped out of the ground towards the close of Tuesday's match against Afghanistan, are certain to miss Friday's match.
"Pradeep will not play Friday's match and Baldeep Singh (Jr) would replace him," he said.
Mondal's condition -- a knee injury -- is stated to be minor.
Besides Pradeep and Mondal, Renedy Singh and Surkumar Singh who have just recovered from injuries are also likely to be rested while captain Baichung Bhutia would not be in the starting line up.
"Renedy and Surkumar will also be rested and Bhutia will be second half substitute," a team source said.
India will, however, be strengthened by the return of nippy winger Steven Dias and central defender Mahesh Gawli.
Dias has not played from India's second group match of the SAFF Cup last month.
Houghton had indicated that a few key players could be rested to give them rest considering the tight schedule of the eight-nation tournament with each team having to play three games in five days.
Replying to a query, Houghton said he has seen the tapes of Tajikistan team and it would be a different challenge to play against them Friday.
When a reporter pointed out that injuries seemed to be chasing the Indian team since the SAFF Cup, Houghton said it was part of the game.
"Every team gets injuries. You just have to accept it," he quipped.
Captain Bhutia said the team was looking ahead to win Friday's match which would put India in a strong position to top Group A after defeating Afghanistan 1-0 in their opening match.
"Obviously, we would want to win tomorrow, we have to keep the winning momentum and keep on working hard," he said.
The Sikkimese Sniper sought to take positives from Wednesday's patchy show against Afghanistan and said he was happy that the boys fought till the last.
"It was great that we kept fighting till the last and we got rewarded by scoring the lone goal in the injury time. We have to keep on fighting like that if we have to win the tournament."