Ipoh, Malaysia: India are looking to continue their recent domination against Asian Games gold medallists Pakistan when the arch-rivals clash in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Wednesday.
Defending champions India's hopes of completing a hat-trick will hinge on winning the next two games, which now seems essential for advancing to the final after they squandered a two-goal lead to suffer a 2-3 defeat against South Korea in the opening outing.
India, who won the Azlan Shah Cup outright in 2009 and were joint champions with South Korea in 2010, go into Wednesday's match with victories in the last four encounters against Pakistan.
After the reversal against South Korea, India have defeated top-placed Britain and hosts Malayisa, while the match against World champions Australia ended in a 1-1 draw. Pakistan's hopes have suffered a jolt despite twin victories as they lost to both Britain and Australia.
"We hope to put up a good show, our team has improved with every outing as the youngsters have gained in confidence," says chief coach Harendra Singh.
"These young players have done a wonderful job and their learning process has got a big boost through the experience here," he said.
He said the Indian team was focusing on executing its own strategy, and are not unduly concerned about the opposition.
"We're not treating the match against Pakistan any differently from the previous games," said Harendra.
"I don't think you can term any particular match as a special one. For us each and every encounter is of equal importance," the coach tried to play down the hype that is always generated during an Indo-Pak clash.
Currently placed third in the round-robin league standings ? behind Britain (nine points from four matches) and Australia (seven points from three games) ? India need to win the two remaining games against Pakistan and New Zealand if they aspire for another appearance in the final.
India maintained an all-win record in last year's four matches against Pakistan, and those included the preliminary league matches in the World Cup in New Delhi and the Guangzhou Asian Games.
In the Asian Games, India suffered a shock defeat against Malaysia in the semifinals, while Pakistan went on to reclaim the title after two decades.
As always Harendra stressed on the fact that success and failures of past will have little credence as they take on Pakistan.
"We've not allowed the Commonwealth Games final and the Asian Games semifinals to play on our minds. Similarly, we won't be looking back at last year's matches against Pakistan," said coach Harendra.
"What happened in last year's matches is now history, just as the earlier matches in this tournament. The boys are eager to perform well," he said.
Harendra, who was brought back as India's coach after resigning in the wake of the loss to Malaysia in the semi-final of the Asian Games where he was the deputy to Spaniard Jose Brasa, said the young team had justified his faith in them.
"I have confidence in these boys, they have been wonderful," he said.
Pakistan will be looking to reverse the tide against India, rankled by the four successive defeats against the sub-continental hockey rivals.
"Against India, we want to execute our plans in a better way that we've done so far," said Pakistan team manager Khawaja Junaid.
"We look forward to coming back strongly in this match, The 1-5 loss to Australia yesterday was a good learning experience. We've got to sort out our shortcomings," said Junaid, a former international player himself.
Pakistan's team here includes most of the gold medalists from the Asian Games, but defence crumbled against Australia on Monday.
"As a group, we've missed a lot of chances. We've been conceding a lot of soft goals and that's something we must not repeat in the nest game," he said.
"We want to win tomorrow's match and get our campaign back on track."
Pakistan have six points from four matches with games against India and hosts Malaysia remaining.
"Two defeats doesn't mean the end of the tournament, we have a lot to play for," Junaid added.
The Indian camp will also be looking to avoid the jittery situation of the second half against Malaysia yesterday, when they allowed the hosts to dictate the pace of the game and lay seize on the Indian goal for the first 15 minutes in the second session.
The Indian defence managed to hold its ground, as it had done in the match against Australia, where India's ability to absorb the pressure secured them a draw.