Sunil Chhetri
All eyes will be on Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri in India-Pakistan friendly match.Reuters

India and Pakistan have not been playing each other regularly on the international stage for quite some time now and whenever these two archrivals cross paths it results in a mouth-watering clash.

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The India under-23 team, led by talisman Sunil Chhetri, one of the overrage players allowed, is set to face Pakistan under-23 team at the Bangalore Football Stadium in the first of two friendly matches as they prepare for the upcoming Incheon Asian Games.

It might be a preparatory game before the Asian Games or just an under-23 match, but the presence of captain fantastic Chhetri, senior international Robin Singh and importantly the tag of India-Pakistan has made it an all-important clash.

"There's no denying it's different," Chhetri said. "Even as we players term or take it as just another match, you can never ignore that there are so many emotions involved in this match. Every time the two countries play against each other in any sport it may be, the mood stays different.

"And however hard, you may try to evade it you can never ignore this fact. And it applies to both the teams."

India are currently ranked 150th in the FIFA charts, fourteen places above Pakistan and also have a better win-loss record of 18-5 against the archrivals. But, this is only their second bilateral series after 2005, when Pakistan hosted the Blue Tigers for a three-match series.

India head into the game as favourites, as they are coming into the encounter on back of some fine performances in a one-and-a-half month exposure tour of the Czech Republic.

"The level of football played in Czech Republic is of a very high standard," India coach Wim Koevermans said. "The boys came back richer in experience. We will also play some good opposition in China prior to the Games in Incheon. That surely will make the boys stronger"

All eyes will be on Chhetri in this much-anticipated clash, as he is the leading goalscorer for India and was also in good form during the Czech tour. The former Kansas City player has scored 42 goals for the senior team in 73 games and has been India's mainstay since Bhaichung Bhutia's retirement.

Koevermans insisted that it is not solely on the former Sporting Lisbon player to take the side home, as senior players Robin and Francis Fernandes will also need to chip in.

"Also you all need to remember that Sunil does not only score goals but also create a lot of them," Koevermans pointed out. "Our aim is to develop the team in all aspects of the game. So far I feel we have made progress and we would be able to judge it in the two forthcoming matches."

Meanwhile, it is a good opportunity for Pakistan to test their young squad on foreign soil ahead of the Asiad. The visitors started their preparations late compared to the hosts but two games against a strong India side will give them clear indication of their readiness.

Pakistan coach Mohammad Shamlan is not using the luxury of having three senior players in the squad and the Bahraini has also discarded foreign-born players from both senior and junior squads in a bid to build a team for the future.

"India are a good side and we are building a team for the future," Shamlan said. "I hope this tour will help our young players gain a lot of experience. We are confident of achieving a positive result in both the matches."

Pakistan will be relying heavily on the Kyrgyzstan-based central midfielder Saddam Hussain and skipper Kaleem Ullah.

The hosts are clearly favourites on paper, but in the India-Pakistan clash anything can happen and the visitors are more than capable of pulling off a surprise against their neighbours.

"Our most inspiring result came against Jordan where we went down by a solitary goal," Pakistan captain Kaleem Ullah said. "We are a young team which is being built keeping an eye on the future. We are confident of achieving a positive result."

Expected lineups: India: Amrinder Singh; Pritam Kotal, Joyner Laurenco, Sandesh Jhingan, Narayan Das; Francis Fernandes, Pronay Halder, Lalrindika Ralte, Mandar Rao Desai; Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh.

Pakistan: Ahsan Ullah; Faisal Iqbal, Muhammad Bilal, Muhammad Ahmed, Ehsan Ullah; Bilawal Ur Rehman, Mehmood Khan, Saddam Hussain, Muhammad Riaz; Mansoor Khan, Kaleem Ullah.

Where to Watch Live

The friendly match between India and Pakistan under-23 squads is scheduled for a 3:30 pm IST (3 pm PST and 11 am BST) start, with live coverage on DD Sports in India. Catch the live match updates HERE or HERE.