The Indian senior national football team will be looking to give Indian football fans a perfect Christmas gift today by winning their opening encounter of the SAFF Cup 2015.
Stephen Constantine's army are looking for their record seventh SAFF Cup title, and are expected to be gearing up with that aim. Sri Lanka are the first opponents for the Blue Tigers from Group A. The match takes place at the Trivandrum International Stadium in Kerala on Friday.
India have to be wary of the Lankan Lions, who won their previous game of the competition by a goal in the dying moments against Nepal. Sri Lanka, thus, also lead the group. Only two teams from each group will make it to the last four.
"They [Sri Lanka] play a defensive formation and will hit us on counter-attacks. They have some decent players and work extremely hard," Constantine said at the pre-match press conference.
"There are no easy games for us — in fact, against anybody. I expect Sri Lanka to give everything they have. We have to be patient and see what happens," he added.
The most striking thing about the India squad for the SAFF Cup 2015 is majority of the players are below 23. The likes of Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das, Rowlin Borges, Pronay Halder, Holicharan Narzary, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Kaushik Sarkar, Thongkhosiem Haokip, Sumit Passi, and Lallrinzuala are all below the age of 23.
"When I took over, I had to make a choice — either to continue with the tried and tested, whose average age was around 30, or to rebuild the squad," Constantine explained. "I opted for the second despite being aware that it won't deliver you immediate results.
"We have lost Sandesh [Jhingan, who's also an U-23 Player], Lobo [Cavin] and Seityasen Singh. Anas pulled a hamstring and we had to release him, too. Besides, there are a number of guys whom we need to be careful with," the British coach added.
The kick-off of the game between India and Sri Lanka is scheduled at 6:30 pm IST on Christmas 2015.
Where to watch live
Viewers in Afghanistan can catch the game on Moby Q.
Live streaming for the entire subcontinent is available on the official SAFF Cup YouTube profile.
Other TV listings: Television Maldives (Maldives), Doordarshan (India), BBS (Bhutan), Bangladesh TV (Bangladesh).