India take on Turkmenistan in their final Group D match of the Russia 2018 Preliminary Joint Qualifiers on their home turf Tuesday, and the Blue Tigers can be expected to give it their best shot. The good news is captain Sunil Chhetri could participate in the game.
The Bengaluru FC hotshot wasn't a part of the squad that played Iran in Tehran five days ago, owing to a groin injury. However, there is still no confirmation on whether Chhetri will play in the game against Turkmenistan. The 31-year-old did however participate in a training session before the game.
India, who fielded a relatively younger side, lost their previous fixture against Iran by a 4-0 margin at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran Wednesday, but received plenty of praise from Iran coach Carlos Queiroz for their performance. Stephen Constantine had awarded a debut to Udanta Singh — the 23rd Indian player to make his senior team debut in a year.
Ahead of the Turkmenistan game, Chhetri urged his side to keep up morale, as it would be key going ahead. "It's a massive game [against Turkmenistan]. It not only is in terms of the points but it's also about the morale — the morale which is so much essential for a young team as ours," Chhetri mentioned in a press release.
"It may sound as an irony that I am speaking about a young team, but in reality it is. The more you play, the more confident you become moving ahead."
Turkmenistan are currently ranked 113 in the FIFA Rankings in comparison to India's 160. The last time the teams met in the competition, the home side narrowly edged past Constantine's team with a 2-1 scoreline in Ashgabat. Jeje Lalpekhlua was the only scorer for the away side.
However, nothing can be ruled out on their home turf. India won their only game of the competition against Guam last November in Bengaluru.
This time, however, the match is being held in Kerala, but no diminishing in support is to be expected. "The support for the SAFF Cup  was amazing [in Kerala]. We just could not have done without their support," Constantine said in another statement.
"Some 45,000 sang and chanted for us nonstop and without them we could not have won it in Trivandrum," the British coach added.
India vs Turkmenistan schedule:
Date - March 29, 2016.
Time - 6 p.m. IST
Venue - Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi.
TV listings - Sony Six, Sony Six HD (India).